After I’d mastered rising trot, holding the reins, ensuring my posture was right and i’d got into the rhythm, my teacher had been hinting for a while I’d be learning to canter soon.
I have to say, I was excited yet very nervous about this notion. I know, from reading that the cantering gait is a three leg one that is faster than the trot.
definition of Cantering
a three-beat gait of a horse or other quadruped between a trot and a gallop
[American Oxford dictionary]
The canter is a three-beat gait, meaning that there are three footfalls heard per stride. Each footfall is the “grounding” phase of a leg. The three footfalls are evenly spaced, and followed by the “suspension” phase of the gait, which is when all four legs are off the ground. The three beats and suspension are considered one stride. The movement for one stride is as follows:
- 1 Beat One: the grounding phase of the outside hind leg. There are many riders who think a front leg is the first beat of the canter, which is incorrect. At this time, the other three legs are off the ground.
- 2 Beat Two: the simultaneous grounding phase of the inside hind leg and outside fore leg. The inside fore leg is still off the ground. The outside hind leg (beat one), is still touching the ground, but is about to be lifted off.
- 3 Beat Three: The grounding phase of the inside foreleg. The outside hind leg (beat one), is off the ground. The inside hind leg and outside foreleg are still touching the ground, but are about to be lifted up.
- 4 The inside hind leg and outside foreleg (beat two) are lifted off the ground. The inside foreleg is the only foot supporting the horse’s weight.
- 5 The inside foreleg is lifted off the ground.
- 6 Suspension: The horse has all four legs off the ground.
We switched horses to learn to canter as the horse I had been riding, Bella, was not suitable for learning on for a complete nubi like me. And so in walked Shadow.
Shadow is bigger than any of the horses I’ve ridden so far. He’s white and a gentle giant with a very smooth gait. Some horses are bouncy while others are very smooth when in movement, hence why Shadow was chosen for me to learn on.
I fell into Shadow’s rhythm in the trot so easily I knew instantly he’d been a great choice on my teacher’s behalf to learn a new stride on.
After I’d done a few successful trots, time to canter had come.
Logistics of the First Canter
as with trotting, initially I learn to hold the saddle and also wove my fingers through a portion of the horse’s mane for extra grip. Shoulders back so you’re not leaning forward on his shoulders which is a tendency as you go faster. The trick with cantering is to move, like with other gaits, with the horse’s rhythm but this stride is at such a speed all what you should be doing does literally fly out of your head.
Safe to say, my first few weeks were a no go whatsoever.
After one session with the owner of the stables where I ride in which she did a technique with me that truly sunk into my wind swept brain, my subsequent weeks have been slightly more successful.
Trick to Adjust
because cantering is about sitting right into your saddle and relaxing your lower half of your body to become one with the horse, it’s vital you sit low in the saddle and RELAX! Yes, I know, like anyone else who has learnt to canter, I thought, “Relax? While this huge animal is going at a new speed underneath me, yeah right?” But it’s vital to understand this. So my instructor, after another failed attempt did a cool little technique to get me to relax and sit right in my saddle.
Have a clear run where you can achieve a good trot in a straight lIne. Then have your horse stand for a few moments. Take both feet out of your stirrups, picking one up, and placing it gently across the horse’s neck. Then, do the same with the other stirrup so they’re crossed over each other and your legs are hanging free. Instantly you’ll feel lower in the saddle. Then, holding onto the saddle, as you do in a sitting trot, holding the reins in one hand, ask your horse to trot and feel the difference. Your body is forced to sink into the saddle and this is what you need to achieve while in canter.
After this quick technique, something seemed to click in my rider’s head. The following week, my first attempt was haphazard but the second attempt was slightly better, minus the fact Shadow wanted to trot rather than canter. But I felt a little more positive about it.
Then the next week, during a mighty rain storm, I tried the canter again. And to my surprise, my hips moved with the rhythm, I was low in my saddle, legs were not interferinG with what I was needing to do and I was so pleased I finally had found my canter.
So in a way, your up to speed. That was my last class so after the next one, we’ll see if it’s a fluke or if cantering is in my future for sure. I know once I’ve mastered it holding onto the saddle, holding the reins shall be the next challenge. I’m thoroughly enjoying this adventure and hope you are all enjoying reading about it to.
The one thing I haven’t caught you all up with is the stable management side of things but that’s for another entry.
thanks for reading.