How to canter

When you are learning to ride, the thought of cantering a horse, might seem like a long way off but that’s what you’re aiming for - How to Canter


If this is your first time to canter, don't be surprised if you start bouncing around in the saddle to begin with, it happens to most beginners, practise makes perfect.

Learning how to canter a horse

The canter is a three-beat pace, horse gaite with the horse leading with the right or left leg.

If you are riding on the left rein the horse needs to lead with the left front leg and left hind; likewise cantering on the right rein he should lead on the right front and right hind.

In the picture the horse is cantering on the left rein, as you can see he is leading with the left front leg.

He needs to be awake, going forward and balanced.

When you learn how to canter, it can be a bit tricky at first to know what leg you are leading with.

As a beginner, you can quickly glance down to check.

When you are more experienced, you will feel which leg you are on without looking down. It will become natural.


In the picture the horse is cantering on the right rein. As you can see he is leading with his front right leg.


Before asking for canter, take up an active trot.

To begin with canter in straight lines until you get the hang of it.

The best way to begin is to ask for canter at the corner, as this will help the horse strike off on the correct lead, then continue cantering on the straight.

Squeeze the inside rein to ask for an inward bend for the direction you wish to go.

The inside leg needs to be pressed on the girth which should signal the horse to move forward.

The outside rein controls and steadies the trot, while the outside leg pressed behind the girth, gives the signal to canter.

At this point, the rider should be upright sitting with a straight back and deep seat, so sitting down in the saddle.

Don’t forget to keep your heels down.

The rider should be looking through the horse’s ears, whilst keeping a light contact on the reins to control the speed.

Some horse’s will break into a trot if the canter is lacking enough impulsion or a lazy horse will start to trot the moment you relax your aids; so you will need to keep the pressure on from your inside leg to avoid this happening.

Flying changes

An experienced rider and well-schooled horse can perform, what is known as a flying change when the horse’s legs are in the air.

When teaching a horse to perform a flying change the horse will sometimes change his legs in front, but not behind, so cantering with opposite legs.

This is known as disunited and you will feel the difference in the canter.

If the horse only changes in front you should ask for a downward transition to trot and ask for canter again.

If you are a beginner, you are a long way off performing flying changes, although if you are serious and passionate about riding, eventually you will be skilled enough to do it.






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