Riders often see canter differently to the other paces and that’s when problems arise. Don’t look at it as a quick whizz round at the end of a session before you go in. Treat it as you would walk or trot.
Horses get strong in canter for many reasons. Young horses find it incredibly exciting, older ones too if they’re naturally excitable. Others do it just because they can!
You can’t canter a horse into submission. Nor can you avoid it. Excitable horses thrive on adrenalin. The longer you canter the more adrenalin they produce and the stronger they become. Avoid it altogether and your horse becomes even more excited the next time you ask.
Ride a 20m circle at A. Canter from X to A and count the strides that you take. At A trot and count the trot strides you take to X. Then canter again. Counting the strides is the most important part of this exercise. It gives you something to focus on. When your mind is on something other than the speed you are going you’ll soon find your horse settles down too.
There are two posts in this blog which may help. http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2010/12/29/the-other-way-of-stopping/ explains how you can use your knee and thigh to make your transition into trot. This reduces the amount of rein you need to use which means your horse will become less strong. http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/01/03/riding-the-perfect-canter-transition/ will help you get an accurate transition into canter.
If you can’t sort your arms and legs out to ride a transition every time you get to A or X then wait until you come round next time. Your horse doesn’t know what you’re doing. He won’t get wound up because you’ve missed a transition but he will if you rush him into canter or drag him back into trot.
When you feel more in control move up and down the school in canter. The minute your horse starts to get strong ride a 20m circle and repeat the transitions. Don’t be tempted to spin him onto a tight circle. This will unbalance and unsettle him which can only cause more tension. This exercise works well because you stay calm and confident in what you are asking him to do. When you’ve re-established control ride on up the school.
The more consistent you are the quicker he’ll learn to pay attention. If you never allow him to tank off up the long side because you always circle and make him trot he’ll soon admit defeat.
Never lean back and pull. This only gives him something to pull against. You can never win a tug of war. Your horse will always be stronger than you but you are more intelligent. Think ahead, be consistent and you’ll always come out on top.