How Can I Teach My Horse To Move From Trot to Canter?

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January 25, 2018

Hi there. I have a five-year-old crossbred who I have just started riding. I am having problems getting him to canter though (he canters fine in the paddock with his mates). He just trots faster and faster and faster when I try to get him to canter. Have your trainers got some suggestions please?

Rebekah, Hamilton

 Hi Rebekah,

 Before you can move from trot to canter correctly, you must be able to move in the walk and trot correctly. By ‘correctly’ I mean you must be able to move exactly where you ask, in the gait you ask, at the exact speed you ask.

 Start in an arena or level area and mark out a twenty metre circle on the ground. Ask your horse to walk and trot in the exact circle you ask, at the exact speed you ask. This is not as easy as it sounds. After you’ve done a few circles to the left, change direction and ask your horse to move to the right. Alternate from left to right and always give your horse time to relax when you change direction. Work on this for about fifteen minutes every day.

 Whenever you ride your horse, whether you’re in an arena or riding on the trail, you must have control of exactly where you move, how you move and the speed you move. If you’re walking up the road never let your horse break into a trot. Immediately take hold of him and bring him back to a walk.

 Work on your walk and trot in the arena for a few weeks. When you feel you’ve gained more control, ask your horse to canter. When you ask your horse to canter you must remember that you’re asking him to change gait, you’re not asking him to move faster.

 Whenever you ask a horse to canter you must have contact with the bit. This doesn’t mean that you’re pulling. You must sit down in the canter position and bring your legs on. Immediately your horse takes one step faster in the trot than you want, you must take hold of the bit and bring him back to your speed. Remember, you’re asking your horse to canter, you’re not asking him to run faster. Never let your horse run and speed up in the trot before he canters. It doesn’t matter if you have to correct him fifty times. It’s up to you to be more determined than your horse.

Your horse may pull quite strongly against you when you ask him to canter because that what he’s learned to do – pull against the rider and run, rather than immediately canter.

If your horse has been running away for months or years you won’t overcome it in a couple of lessons. It will take some months to overcome this issue. Remember, if you can walk, trot and canter exactly where you ask, exactly when you ask at the exact speed you ask, all your problems are over.

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