Take a look at this list. If you can check yes to most of these than I would say that you are about ready to start learning how to canter!
Skills Riders Need In Order To Canter Safely
- Good Basic Position: Straight line from shoulder to hip to heel.
- Deep Seat: Ability to sit deep in the saddle and recognize if you are getting off center.
- Stirrups: Ability to keep your feet properly in your stirrups (on the ball of your foot). Also to get your feet back in the stirrups (while still moving) if they would happen to fall out.
- Hands: Ability to keep your hands independent from the rest of your body.
- Contact: Ability to keep your rein length correct and adjust it as necessary.
- Muscle Memory/Strength: You need the muscle memory to hold your body in the correct balanced position. Also, you need a strong core to keep you deep and centered. You need leg muscles to be able to push the horse forward.
- Comfortable Carrying/Using A Crop: You should be comfortable with and using a riding with a crop (as needed).
- Confidence In Yourself: If you are not confident in your abilities and don’t feel ready to canter, you probably aren’t and that is okay! We all learn at our own pace and get comfortable at our own pace.
- Trust In Your Trainer: You need to be able to trust your trainer and follow their instructions to canter successfully. You need to feel comfortable in trusting your trainer’s instructions. Also, you need to feel comfortable that they have the knowledge to properly assess your skill level. Again, we all learn at our own pace! Just because the rest of your lesson group is starting to canter doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ready to. If you are not, that’s okay! It’s a horsemanship journey remember? We are all traveling it at our own pace.
- A Mount You Trust: When the time comes for you to learn how to canter you should be riding a horse that you are familiar with. One that you have ridden frequently and know well. If you are uncertain of the horse you are riding, that will cause tension in your body. We all know us being tense makes our horses tense. So in order to start cantering on a positive note, you need be on a horse you are relaxed and confident on.
Learning To Canter Is A Big Deal!
Learning how to canter is one of the many milestones of learning how to ride. I strive to make sure that all my students are more than ready so they can start with having a positive experience.
Your first canter should feel surprisingly smooth compared to all the trotting you have been doing! It is also a very powerful gait to ride since the horse pushes so much from its hind end at the canter.
One thing I remind all my riders who are nervous about trying the canter is that the horse already knows how to do it! They canter around the field all the time and they have been since they were wobbly little foals. You need to learn the correct cues to tell your horse to canter staying balanced and control where the horse is going. Cantering isn’t different than any other gait or riding skill, it still involves multitasking!
A first canter is a milestone in your riding career! J
Hopefully, you will use the memory to encourage and support other new riders on their horsemanship journey!