Your Cantering Now!
The other day I wrote about cantering. How to ask for it, what the expect, etc.. I was hoping to give you as much information as I could about what it would be like cantering for the first time. That way it wouldn’t seem so daunting and maybe if you have been hesitant, you might give it a try.
Tips For Common Problems
From teaching riders to canter over the years, I can think of a few common problems while learning to canter. I can offer you some suggestions on how to fix them, so here goes!
Feet Going Too Far Through The Stirrup In The Transition
This is something I have seen a lot of riders struggle with when learning how to canter. Usually, the reason their feet end up too far though is that their leg loosened up when the horse got bouncy in the transition. Which allows your foot to come up and sometimes slip in the stirrups.
If this is a problem you have, first off, make sure your stirrups are the correct length. If they are too long and you have to reach for them, this is putting you behind the horse’s motion, causing your leg to swing and possibly your foot move in the stirrup. Correct stirrup length can make a big difference.
Another thing that will help you with this problem is as you are trotting, think about sinking your weight down into your heels and your seat bones down in the saddle. Practice pushing your horse for a bigger trot, like he was about to canter, but don’t go into it. Push him more forward for half of the ring, so you can practice securing your position. This will help keep your feet in the stirrups where they belong, on the ball of your foot. Once you have gone around a bit in this more forward than usual trot if you need to slow back to a normal trot. Giving your legs a rest, as well as allowing you to fix your feet in the stirrups if they moved.
Practicing a more forward trot is a good way to practice the way it feels in the transition from trot to canter. Remember, I said yesterday, the transition is the hardest part!
Seat Coming Out Of The Saddle At The Canter
It is normal to have trouble keeping a deep seat when you are first learning how to canter. Remember how we talked about lining up your shoulder, hip and heel to stay in the best balance with the horse? Try to keep that in mind.
You want your lower leg to stay at the girth. This will make your seat feel more secure in the saddle.
Once you have your lower leg position better, you should be coming out of the seat a lot less!
Now, all you should have to do to help keep you from bouncing is to push your shoulders back, even a little too far back for a moment. This will help you feel both seat bones down deep in the saddle, and keep you from bouncing. Legs wrapped around long and shoulders back! Make sure that if you use the leaning back a little extra far technique, that once you deepen your seat you try to bring your shoulders back to their normal position. Riding with your shoulders too far back all the time can make your lower leg slip forward. So use this technique for a few strides until you are sitting nice and deep. Then, while trying to keep your seat bones still down deep, bring your shoulders back in line with your hip and your heel.
Falling Back In The Transition/Accidently Pulling Back On The Reins
We talked about the transition to canter being the hardest part of learning it. Don’t be surprised that as you are learning you accidentally lose your balance and get left behind in the transition. Causing you to pull your reins back by accident.
Remember, we talked about that big push your horse takes into canter? That’s why this happens to us in the transitions! If we pull on our reins accidently, then we are giving our horses mixed signals. Most likely causing them to not canter in the first place or to break to a trot.
Again, your lower leg position is the foundation for your balance in the saddle. As you improve that you won’t have the falling back and pulling problem as often!
In the meantime, there is a simple solution to this. Make sure you have a good rein contact. Enough that you can feel the horses bit in his mouth, but not so short that you are pulling back on him. Then as you ask your horse to canter and wrap your leg around, hold on to the front of the saddle. Or grab a chunk of your horse’s mane to help keep your body up as your horse does that big push. This will help you feel more secure, giving you the opportunity to practice transitions more and get used to it. The more familiar you get with the feel of the transition, the more confident you will be. I bet you won’t have the falling back in the transition problem anymore.
You Are Doing Great! Keep Up The Good Work!
Remember, there is no shame in grabbing a hunk of mane! God gave horses manes for us to hold onto! I think that is about enough for today. I don’t want to put you into canter information overload!