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Canter is the Alien Gait

Don Jessop

Regarding young or novice trained horses, canter is more challenging than most horse owners and novice riders expect. On a sliding scale of complexity and difficulty, walking is a 1, trotting, is a 3, and cantering is a 12. It's not a small jump. People often make the mistake of believing that because their horse can trot around for a minute they can also canter around for a minute. The truth is, they can't. Horses don't practice cantering much on their own unless they live in huge herds with lots of space, and even then, it's quite rare. Canter and gallop require the highest energy output, and the most balance, and the strongest muscles. In comparison, trotting is a cake walk.

What I'm trying to say is... if you're struggling with canter, you're not alone. Give yourself some slack and start practicing without the unrealistic expectations you've been holding.

Here's THE biggest pitfall regarding training the canter, and I'm sad to say, it's industry wide... People believe, quite inappropriately, that when training the canter, the rider shouldn't allow the horse to break gait, or stop cantering, until asked to. The truth is, it's okay to break gait. And rather than berating the horse for failing or trying to prop them up so they don't fail by kicking or prodding the horse forward, it's far better to play games that reward effort and energy.

My favorite game for cantering is the counting game. I never reprimand the horse for failing to hold the canter. After all, most of the time, horses break gait to preserve energy or balance. Instead of reprimanding, I encourage a certain, achievable goal and plan rewards. It could be, in the beginning, as simple as one canter stride, followed by a reward, and within days, I find myself asking for up to fifty canter strides and the horse is loving the game.

If you plan and reward progressively, allowing for mistakes and growth, you'll love working with and riding the canter. And more importantly, your horse will learn to love it too, earning endurance, balance, and strength along the way.

Hope this is helpful dear readers. Canter is a big topic, so feel free to send your inquiries and comments.

Ps. Click here for an old video showing the counting game on the ground. It can be done riding too. Have fun. Be natural, responsible, and smart.

Here's to your success! Don Jessop

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


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Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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