The good news about sitting a canter is that it’s a whole lot less bumpy than the trot. The complicating part is that it’s also a whole lot faster (If you’re anything like me, that’s the fun part).
The canter is a three-beat gait. There are six phases, but you can only feel three of them. This is because the horse’s different legs hit the ground at three distinct points. Look at the diagram. At step one of a right-lead canter (we’ll talk about leads in a second), the horse’s left hind foot is touching the ground. This is beat one. At step two, his right hind and left front feet (known as the “diagonals” because they are diagonally opposite each other) both hit the ground at the same time. This is beat two. Then in step three, his left hind foot leaves the ground, but because there is no impact (no new foot is hitting the ground) there is no beat. You don’t really feel this step. In step four, the horse’s right front foot hits the ground. This is the third beat. In step five, his diagonals (the right hind foot and the left front foot) leave the ground, but again you don’t feel this and it doesn’t count as a beat. In step six, all of his feet leave the ground. This full suspension in mid-air prepares him to put his left hind foot down again to start a new stride, with a new beat one.
It’s sort of depressing to list all the things you can mess up in the canter, but it’s a good way to become aware of things you might not realize you’re doing. As they say, recognizing that you’ve got a problem is the first step towards fixing it! Plus, after every mistake, I offer one possible way to work on improving.
1. Rocking your shoulders. As I mentioned in my first post about the canter seat, it’s very easy to let your shoulders or even your whole upper body rock back and forth as your horse rocks back and forth underneath you. However, if you do this, you get very out of balance and throw your horse off-balance too! Also, it makes it very difficult for you to do anything with the rest of your aids, as you’ve got nowhere from which to work.
A: Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head. Pretend you are a marionette puppet, and someone is constantly drawing you upward. As you stretch upward, you’ll automatically stop moving back and forth. Read more on Top ten cantering no-nos–and how to fix them!…