Exercise to improve canter
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, March 27, 2016 08:42 AM
This exercise not only helps to improve the canter in terms of balance, straightness and jump through but also helps rider to develop deeper and more centered seat in canter. It is appropriate for a horse confirmed in counter canter with ability to collect and extend the stride. The horse should stay round and relaxed while counter cantering large around the whole ring.
To describe the exercise we will be cantering on the left lead. However, a rider must always repeat exercises on both reins for symmetrical development of the horse.
  • Travel left. From a round, regular and active walk in a shoulder-fore position pick up left lead canter
  • Turn on the quarter line and half-pass or leg-yield to the opposite quarterline
  • Continue in counter canter around the corners
  • Leg-yield head to the wall on the long side traveling right. It will be in the left lead canter and the angel is about 25-30 degrees which is less than for traditional leg-yield in trot (40 degrees)
  • Ride through the first corner and start 20 m circle in counter canter. Ask for the slight right flexion which is inside for the circle
  • Leg-yield head to the wall again on the next long side
  • Repeat a few times alternating large circles at the ends with leg-yields head to the wall on long sides
  • To finish the exercise you can choose to simply come back to trot or walk or change direction on the diagonal and finish in true canter preserving the feel created in counter canter. Also, you can add a movement like a half-pass, 10 m circle, centerline before coming back to trot or walk
  • Give your horse a break before doing the exercise on the other rein
In the leg-yield head to the wall you are asking your horse to stand up and come up though the withers. There is no bend and the horse is well aligned from head to tail. The horse confidently jumps up and through and keeps reaching for the contact on both reins. The neck feels long, arched and stretched toward the bit. The tempo is regular and slow.
On the big circle the horse respects boundaries of both aids inside and outside. Flexing the horse to the right makes him stand up through the right side of his body which is outside side for the left lead. He also must stay on correct lead regardless of flexion proving his understanding that seat and legs are primary aids to differentiate canter leads (absolutely necessary quality for future sequential flying changes).
Corners must be well defined though not necessarily very deep. When in counter canter corners are ridden with idea of shoulder-fore for the canter lead - left shoulder-fore on the left lead.
Mistakes:
-Too much bend in order to sustain counter canter, particularly in the neck. Flexion - yes, bend - no
- Letting the horse fall through outside (for canter lead) shoulder. Haunches will escape too losing the angle necessary for the leg-yield
- Rider losing deep centered position being pushed by the horse. If the horse succeeds it will do a flying change instead of continuing in the leg-yield head to the wall
- Uneven contact, rider pulling too much on inside rein (for canter lead)
- Rider is twisting in upper body or hips instead of staying aligned with the horse. This is common on a circle in counter canter, especially, if the horse is a bit stiff on one lead.
- Rider is losing engagement by allowing the horse to fall outside of the circle line, particularly with the haunches. Circle in counter canter is more about alignment and collection rather than steering
- Rider is looking down or into the wall instead of on the line of travel
Happy riding...
 
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