Masterclass Beanie Sturgis on developing control in canter
The British event rider explains how to establish a controlled canter through shortening and lengthening the stride, before introducing poles
THIS exercise involves cantering down the long side and asking for more or fewer canter strides each time. I use it on all my horses, from young to advanced, and I find it is a great way of developing control in the canter for jumping.
You want to be able to shorten and lengthen the horse’s stride in front of and between fences, and this is an excellent way of teaching the horse before introducing poles.
It’s important to have the canter soft, balanced and straight before the horse starts jumping, as an unbalanced horse will be more likely to start tapping the poles and quickly learn to disrespect them.
I ask the horse to shorten his stride with my seat, gripping with my knees and sitting softly in the saddle, and then riding forwards with my leg and sitting slightly deeper in the saddle to ask for longer strides.
With younger horses, I would ask for only a small adjustment, so maybe two strides fewer or more down each long side, whereas with the more experienced horses you can ask for up to five more strides and four fewer.
1 Canter down the long side of the arena in a working canter and count the number of strides from corner marker to corner marker to get a baseline number of strides. Then change the number of strides, building up to five more and four fewer strides down the long side in a short arena (in a long one you can do much more/less than five). You can do this in a field and use anything as a marker.
2 Decide how many strides you are aiming for and be accurate — start gradually and work your way up so the horse can work out what is being asked of him. It is quite useful to do a 15m circle at each end to reestablish a true, soft canter.
3 Don’t keep the canter really contained round the short side. It is hard work for the horse and their reward is to go back to working canter round the short side.
4 When opening up the stride, keep the balance light and uphill; the horse should come back softly without leaning on you. When the exercise is more established, increase the difficulty by performing it on a slight slope.
‘It’s important to have the canter soft, balanced and straight before the horse starts jumping’
Beanie Sturgis with Lebowski, on whom she completed five four-stars