Loud and Clear?
Are you struggling with your canter transitions? You’re not alone! There are three common problems that regularly occur
- your horse is slow to react
- your horse is too quick to react
- your horse doesn’t react at all!
All three of those things can be improved if you sharpen up your aids. Canter aids are often misunderstood – and used. Do you think “sitting trot in a corner and outside leg back”? Despite what many riders think moving your outside leg back isn’t the aid to canter. It’s the leg that tells your horse which lead you want. Energy comes from your inside leg. He should wait until you use it – but if you didn’t know that how would he? Using your aids in this way makes your transitions more accurate.
Practise asking for canter from an inside leg aid by putting your outside leg back three strides before a marker. Tighten your fingers around your reins to make it clear to your horse that he should stay in trot. On the marker use a clear, sharp nudge with your inside heel – relax your fingers on the reins – and allow him to go. It takes patience and practise but once you get it right you’ll find it not only improves your transitions – it also improves the quality of your canter.
If your horse is slow to respond to your leg it isn’t that you need to use more leg – it’s because you’re using too much! If you’re constantly banging against his sides how can he really understand the difference between keep going and canter now? Check out this post for more ideas on sharpening him up.
Sharper horses benefit from your lower leg staying against their side to reassure them. Take it off and they worry about when it’s going to come back on again. They also react the second you take sitting trot. There’s only one thing to do about that – do more of it.
Work on a 20m circle so you’re on a constant curve. This eliminates the tension and anticipation of a canter transition as you approach a corner. Take sitting trot and stay in it. Relax your seat and breathe. When you hold your breath every muscle in your body goes rigid which means you bounce against your horse’s movement. When your seat and back are soft you’ll bounce with him.
Once your horse has settled and is accepting the fact you’re staying in sitting trot you can start to alternate between walk and canter transitions. An over-excited horse will often calm down if you fill his head with your ideas rather than allowing him to invent ideas of his own so keep the transitions varied and sometimes go large for half a circuit just to keep him thinking.
If your horse is always one step ahead of you and yet always gets the wrong leg try asking on the centre line. The fact he’s on a straight line will completely throw him! He won’t expect you to ask for canter so you’ll have time to use your aids correctly.
Initially make it easier for him by asking for the leg of the rein you’ve turned onto the centre line from. He’ll still be thinking that way. It’s important when you ask on a straight line you have his head and neck straight in front of him. That way his weight will be spread equally between all four legs.
If your horse is going nicely before the transition then there’s a strong chance it’s the way you’re asking that’s causing the trouble. Do you anticipate a problem and try to sneak up on him?! Adopting the ‘sit-kick-go’ method won’t take him by surprise but it will make him tighten up and shoot off.
However sharp your horse is he’ll be far less likely to tense up if you don’t throw sudden directions at him. Make sure you take sitting trot well ahead of the corner you’re going to ask in and give him plenty of time to hear what you’re asking. Put your outside leg back for two or three strides before you use your inside leg to tell him to go. You’ll need to stay calm; keep your hands still and have plenty of patience but it will pay off in the end.
Patience and consistency are key requirements with any horse whether he’s lazy or excitable. Just remember that more often than not it’s not what you’re asking him to do but the way you’re asking!
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.
My new 121 training has started week. If you want video training with me all you need is a YouTube link to film of you schooling your horse – of competing. There’s are two huge benefits to this form of training – I have a rewind button and YOU get to print it out and keep it. Never forget a word you’ve been told again!