November 2013                                                                                       No: 2





Cantering is fun and is an important skill to master in your riding! This article covers the basics of how to canter, but remember, riding is something best learned from a qualified and experienced instructor!


Step 1

Warm up your horse. First, use a lunge line attached to the horse's bridle, and have it walk and trot around you in a round pen. After you've done that for maybe 10 minutes, mount (while your horse is still on the lunge line), and then do some walking and trotting for the same amount of time.

Step 2

Prepare your horse to canter by picking up a balanced, forward trot. Sit a few strides before asking to canter. Tighten your inside rein and bend your horse around your inside leg. When you are prepared, ask your horse to canter by kicking or squeezing your outside leg and use your seat to push your horse forward (lean back and don't pull on your horse's mouth. Have some contact with your horse's mouth but don't be yanking on your reins. Your horse might balance by maybe moving his/her head so soften your elbows and let him/her. Also keep your butt in your saddle at all times). The horse should pick up the canter. If not, the person on the ground can use the lunge whip (without hitting the horse) to encourage them to move forward into the canter.

A common fault when learning to canter is pulling on the reins for balance. This prevents the horse from moving forward and isn't very nice on their mouth! If you are on the lunge line, you can go into two-point position and hold the horse's mane or a safety strap (martingale). This will help you develop the feel for cantering without pulling on the horse's mouth. Remember that when you're holding onto the saddle cloth you have less control over the horse, this is very dangerous, instead just sit really deep into the saddle.

If you are not pulling on the reins and your horse still doesn't canter, he may just be lazy so you can try giving them a kick with your outside leg or using a crop just behind your outside leg to reinforce the aid. Riders just learning to canter should not use a crop. Coordinating the crop while cantering for the first time is too much to handle! Inexperienced riders should always have a knowledgeable person on the ground for advice, as there are many other reasons a horse may not pick up the canter such as stiffness or lameness that a beginner may not diagnose.

Step 3

Once you are in the canter for the first time, try to relax and breathe! It will take a few times to get comfortable. Ideally you want your seat to stay in the saddle and follow the motion of the horse. Just like learning to rise the trot took practice, so will learning to sit the canter. Some horses are smoother than others so if you feel like you are getting pushed around too much when you try to sit, try holding two-point in the canter for a few laps on the lunge so you can get use to the feeling of the canter. If you are nervous and tense, you will not be able to relax in your seat and follow the motion of the canter. If you feel that the horse is going too fast lean back a little bit and take off some of your lower leg pressure, your horse will probably slow down.

Step 4

While cantering, just like at the walk, your hands should lightly follow the motion of the horse's head. You want your shoulders, hips and heels to remain in vertical alignment. You need your back and stomach muscles to be supple to absorb the motion of the canter. Your legs should remain still, relaxed and closed around the horses sides without clamping so your weight can sink down in your heels. Remember, it is almost impossible to fall off if you sit up straight and follow the motion.

Step 5

With time and practice, cantering will become easy! Remember, nothing replaces an experienced instructor and a well-schooled horse for learning the basics.


Cantering is scary especially if you lose your stirrups. Keep your heels down as much as possible and slide the stirrup towards the middle of your foot. If you lose your stirrup, simply slow your horse and reorganize.

You need to be comfortable and balanced at the walk and trot before learning to canter. You should be able to hold two-point position in the trot.

Use a firm aid so that your horse picks up the canter without "running" in a fast and bumpy trot. If your horse doesn't pick up the canter, slow down the trot so that it is steady and balanced again before reapplying the aids to canter.

If you feel comfortable cantering from a trot, ask your instructor if you can canter from a walk. Some instructors insist that you canter from a walk.

In horse riding, one of the hardest things to do is relax, but once you do, it’s way easier to canter.

If you lose your stirrups, don't freak out. Just go along with it. Sometimes, it's easier to canter without stirrups.

Lean back when you are slowing your horse down. Leaning forward will encourage your horse to move faster.

Make sure you are comfortable and confident in a posting and sitting trot before you attempt a canter.

Make sure you are always in control; keep your horse collected and listening to your commands. You don't want your horse to lose attention or spook while you're cantering.
You can also go into 3 point when going over jumps.

Give the aids for canter on a corner (if riding in a school). This will help the horse to strike off on the correct leading leg.

Ask for the canter from the walk by shortening up your reins. Then, put your outside leg back behind the girth and slide your heel up the barrel of the horse.

Always have a person on the ground with you, ideally an instructor if you are a beginner and still just learning basic skills.

Try to stay relaxed in your lower back and abdominal muscles so that your hips rock with the movement of the canter while keeping your upper body still.

If you want to stop but you're too scared to let go of the saddle cloth, just lean back. Most horses respond and slow down if you completely relax.

If possible, have an experienced rider or instructor lunge your horse for you while you are mounted (the horse travels in a circle around them using a lunge line). This way the person on the ground is controlling the speed and direction of the horse so you can focus on getting comfortable cantering.

An alternative way to ask for the canter is to tighten your inside rein then squeeze with the outside. If the horse does not immediately pick it up from a walk don't stress. If your horse is undergoing training it will come with time. But if your horse is trained and experienced no tolerance then. If you tighten your inside rein press it against the horses neck or lift it and slide you’re outside back and the horse trots pull back at the walk and squeeze with a little bit more pressure ankles or spurs work and your horse should pick it up from the walk. Should your horse pick up the wrong lead then you have two options.. simple change or flying lead change. A simple change is when the horse picks up for example the outside lead and you want them to pick up the inside you pull back to a trot and ask for the inside lead. The more complicated one is the flying lead change when you are cantering and want to change your leads as if you’re doing dressage turn your horse diagonally and reverse at the canter the moment you’re going to get on the rail ask for the desired lead and the horse should change the back first then the front. Should your horse not change the back it isn't a flying lead change then it is called the horse dropping its shoulder.

Make sure your riding area has safe, level footing. You don't want to have to maneuver around jumps, chairs or other riding ring clutter when learning to canter.

Add a firm half halt before you cue for the canter. Be sure that the half halt includes your seat and reins.

You also should have mastered the walk and trot and be able to do well in the sitting trot.

The two-point position is the jumping position.

The ideal horse to learn to canter on is quiet, well-schooled and knows how to be lunged.

Cantering is really fun once u get used to it. For me cantering in 2 point (jumping position) is easier and more fun.


All riders should wear an approved helmet and appropriate footwear (hard soled boots with a heel).

Never attempt this without prior horse experience! Always wear a helmet and have a guardian or qualified trainer with you.

If you feel like you're going to fall off, lean back a bit more, because you may be leaning forward too far. That means you're bouncing on your pelvis and your center of balance is off, making you feel insecure. If that still doesn't work, rein the horse in.

To prevent yourself from gripping with your legs, be sure to keep the balls of your feet pressed against the stirrups, and press your heels towards the ground. Also if you feel insecure, try to avoid gripping with your legs if at all possible. This may help you feel more secure, but remember, it's telling the horse to go faster, or keep going, and if you feel insecure, you don't want the horse to keep going at a canter.

Do not buy too big of a heel on your boot. If you do, it will be very hard to hop on without your horse storming off. When you hop on with huge heels, it is basically telling your horse to go.

Things you’ll need

A calm and well-trained horse
Appropriate riding safety gear/attire
An instructor or trainer
Crop (optional)
Lunging whip




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