My Horse Can’t Canter Left!
My horse canters beautifully on the right rein but, on the left, we have a 50/50 success rate for getting the correct lead – and if we do get it he’ll hop onto the wrong leg halfway round the school. My friends say he needs to get stronger on the left rein – how can I do that?
You say you’ve considered saddle, back and teeth so there’s clearly something else going on here because he’s happy to canter on the right rein. Typically, problems like these, stem from the rider but that’s good news! It means you can do something about it.
Most riders have a better side – one that you find it easier to turn towards. Yours is clearly the right. When you ride a corner or a curve your body should mirror the direction you want your horse to bend to. This doesn’t only mean looking where you want to go – it means your whole body should turn and match the line you’re riding. Often, riders look where they want to go and turn their shoulders, BUT forget to turn their hips too. So, what your horse is doing when you ask for canter (or are cantering around the school) is matching what your body is telling him. To put it simply his shoulders are turning to the inside but his quarters and hips are turning to the outside. This makes cantering uncomfortable and difficult for him, so he switches.
You are probably riding like this in walk and trot, but he’ll find it far less unbalancing. Consider it though because you may find he’s ‘stiffer’ to the left in walk and trot too.
Practise riding in walk and sitting trot with your shoulders and hips turned slightly to the inside – be careful you don’t try too hard and over turn – your body needs to match the line your horse is on. Use 20m circles so you have a consistent curve to stay on.
Once you’ve found your balance and feel happy that you are matched up, try asking for canter on the right rein so you can get used to keeping your hips turned correctly through the transition. Then change the rein and ride transitions to and from canter – canter at X (for example) and trot at A or C. This keeps you focused on the actual transition and the circle will keep you focused on what you’re doing with your body.
Once you’ve mastered the transition you can work on maintaining the canter. Start by completing a full circle and then move on to going large. When you are going large remember to straighten your body for the long sides; turning to the curve around the short sides. This will be more comfortable for your horse and help him to stay balanced around the corners.
Good luck! I hope this helps but there are a few more posts that you may find interesting and useful below –