Getting to Work on the Canter

I had my first lesson this weekend where we really worked in the canter. It was supposed to be a jump lesson, but we never got to jumping. We had so much work to do in the canter. For most of the lesson I felt utterly frustrated and defeated. Ninety percent of this comes from me just not having done much with June in the canter, and not feeling comfortable with her canter yet. And that’s totally ok, because that will come with time in the saddle. But it’s frustrating right now, and makes me feel like I have made no consistent progress with this horse.

But thank goodness for Sarah who literally said at the end of my lesson “You’re making forward progress, don’t worry, it’s just that things are constantly evolving.”


She looked so cute here, I didn’t care that my head was chopped off. Also, I can just tell I wanted to drop my left hand. And I am pinching too much with my knee. But the rest is great…lol

So, I tried to remember that. And it inspired me to get working and try to canter June EVERY TIME I ride her. Even when there are other riders in the arena. Even if there is a jump lesson going on. I’ve got to feel comfortable with her canter, and feel comfortable asking different things of her in the canter.

Some take aways from this past lesson that were really helpful to me, and I need to remember, so am writing them down here:

  1. Don’t mistake curling for connection. June needs to be accepting contact through her body, it has to come back to front. Otherwise she just curls and gets behind the bridle and it’s not true contact. I need to let her nose out a bit more, and have her step into the contact.
  2. Keep my hands quiet. This is a horse who does not need me messing with her mouth. Ask with my seat, not my hands.
  3. June gets anxious and quick because I get anxious and stiff. We were having some trouble getting the correct lead going right. And once we did get the correct lead, June was rushing and our canter was not productive. I thought the canter was rushed because June just felt like rushing. But Sarah mentioned there was a direct correlation between me stiffening and not following and June rushing. So, her rushing is a reaction to me. Therefore I need to always be light in my seat with following elbows. I need to do this while also doing a bunch of other things, but if I can get even this, I think we’re going to have a much better time in the canter, and be able to accomplish so much more.
  4. Just keep your leg on. And use it.
  5. June is sensitive. I have a sensitive horse. Which one year down the road, will be lovely. But right now, is foreign to me. I don’t ride sensitive particularly well. So, I need to change that. By doing all of the aforementioned things.

I am learning so much on this mare, and she was so game and so good during our lesson. Do I wish she were broke and we could jump over jumps instead of work over ground poles? Yes. I do. But at the same time, I was the one leaning forward as we approached the ground pole. I was the one who didn’t help in any way when she got an awkward distance to it. So, really, I’m no more experienced than she is currently, and we both need to work on executing the basics well, together.


I think we both look pretty happy here. Again with my damn knee. But at least I’m happier with my hands

So, I can bitch and whine and wish we were “further along,” or I can take it for what it is and move forward. This is the first horse I have ever started on my own, without another trainer getting her “ready” for me under saddle. So, things are going to take a little longer. But in the end, we’re going to know each other so well. And I am going to have learned so much. And I’ll be able to ride a sensitive horse. And I have a feeling I will finally understand why people love starting youngsters.


How I really feel about her



16 thoughts on “Getting to Work on the Canter

  1. Great take aways from a frustrated position. The canter is my current nemesis. No real reason except that through my entire prior riding life the trot was where I lived with endurance and the canter work now feels alien. You’ll get there together and be a strong partnership at the other side


  2. Liz says:

    She’s such a wonderful horse! It’s slow going raising a youngster, but it is so very worth it and you’re right – your partnership will be absolutely outstanding as a result of all the time together.


  3. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, the one thing I have had to accept is to get better at the thing (cantering), you just have to do the thing haha. Plus, I have a hard time when things are “messy” in training, so I totally understand what you are saying. Ellie’s canter has come a long way, but it still needs improvement and most of the issues are because of ME!


  4. KC Scott says:

    Gah, you guys look amazing! I struggle in the canter also on P (but not on other horses which is weird) and could seriously just spend hours working on that gait alone.


  5. emma says:

    aww i love that last pic 😉 i totally know how you feel tho, the green horse process is definitely a journey. with charlie, doing a lot of canter could be intimidating too bc he was so big and unbalanced in a tiny indoor that winter…. to help me deal with that, i sorta just tried breaking it down to smaller pieces. like, a transition up then a circle and then back to trot again, for instance. small and manageable turned out to be the perfect way for me to handle introducing more canter into our normal work until it didn’t really feel like a “thing” anymore. good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. draftmare says:

    Cantering is and probably forever will be my worst gait. I too sometimes have to force myself to canter every ride because it would be so much easier to just do w/t and be happy with the easy gaits.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. martidoll123 says:

    cantering sucks. there i said it. I have a coming 16 year old horse and yes i still hate the canter (Except on course jumping then it all comes together usually, go figure) You guys will get there!! She looks great and so do you!! Keep on cruising! I look forward to watching you guys be amazing this year….


  8. Hillary H. says:

    I can relate to this! I feel like I often get tricked into taking my leg off. Slow going with babies but it’s so worth it in the end! 🙂


  9. L. Williams says:

    Drink and enjoy that youngster Kool-Aid!

    Liked by 1 person

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