Canter is the fastest gait and is the main gait for equestrian sports, above all for jumping
To train a horse it’s very important to maintain and improve the purity of gaits. Therefore the trainer and the rider must understand the way the horse should move at the walk, trot and canter. For each of the gaits the sequence of the leg movements is different as is the rhythm of the hoof beats.
The canter is in three-time: three hoof beats should be heard and there is a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground.
Canter is right or left. When the right foreleg leads the sequence of leg movements is:
- Left hind leg
- Right hind and left foreleg together
- Right foreleg followed by a moment of suspension.
When the left foreleg leads the sequence of leg movements is:
- Right hind leg
- Left hind and right foreleg together
- Left foreleg followed by a moment of suspension.
When the canter is disunited (a fault) the forehand is on one lead and the hind quarters on the other.
The canter is good when the rhythm of three-time is regular, strides are even and not hurried, hind quarters are engaged with active hocks, balance is maintained, horse is straight with his shoulders directly in front an not to one side of his hind quarters, the canter is true (not disunited). In cantering the horse’s back tilts up and down like a seesaw.
In the canter, it’s essential that the rider uses the following seat with a soft lower back, free hip joints, receptive seat bones and buttocks, elastic knees and ankles.
The level of the body alters from front to rear. The rider must therefore adjust to this alteration as well as absorbing the up and down springs. The rider must absorb the bounding movement of the canter with his loins and seat and not by swinging his upper body backwards and forwards, which is a very common fault. The hip joints need to be pressed forward, the shoulders remaining on the vertical and square to the horse’s shoulders. The loins move to follow the movement of the canter. The three hoof beats should be felt. The rider must retain a balanced seat, not slipping to one side of the saddle. The rider’s legs must remain long, with the inside leg beside the girth and the outside slightly further back.
Listen to the rhythm: one, two, three, wait…, have a following, receiving seat… keep calm and move with your horse.