Does your horse loose the canter or rush and become unbalanced?
That is what Maze used to do when I first met her but after teaching and explaining to her owner Sarah how to help create a better quality canter, she now canters very well. The main key to remember is: Quality over Quantity. Instead of asking Maze to canter and to keep the canter for long periods of time which resulted in her becoming tense and tired which led to her to loosing her balance either rushing or dropping out of the canter. We asked Maze to pick up the canter and after ONE circle in canter we asked her to trot again making sure to support her in the downwards transition, telling her she is good and giving her a pat - horses love praise. Once she settled and trotted nicely we asked her to canter again for ONE more circle. Little by little over the following weeks Sarah was able to add one circle to another and canter a full 2 circles at a time and then do a lap of canter around the arena, all with softness and balance. How did we get this result? When asked to canter for long periods of time some horses can become, sore, tired, stiff or tense (or all of the above), if they are not given adequate breaks. By training the canter little by little we are asking for the transition back to trot before the horse has become tired. After a few attempts with this new canter pattern the horse begins to understand that we are not going to take advantage of them asking for canter for too long and they relax. As a result, the canter quality becomes better, and we can slowly increase the quantity of canter while always asking for the trot before we feel the horse becoming tired. This way, they learn to trust that we won’t ask them for too much. Eventually the horses will rely on us and won’t anticipate but will wait to be asked for the downward transition. Here and there we can ask a little extra and horses, being the nice creatures that they are, will 9 times out of 10 give us that little extra. Make sure you reward and don’t ask for extra too often to keep that good will going. I f you want or need the canter for long periods then you have to take the time to build your horse's fitness in and out of the arena. With more fitness comes more strength and the ability to canter longer without getting tired, sore, stiff or pressured.