How do I get my horse to sit up in canter?
Hugely successful native pony producer Samantha Roberts offers advice for achieving a quality canter
GETTING your horse to sit up in this gait can be achieved once you have established a balanced canter. The aim is to teach him to carry the weight from behind. As the legs don’t move symmetrically as in walk and trot, canter can be difficult for the horse because it has an uneven beat.
To establish a good canter, check your horse is cantering in a consistent rhythm, without changing speed and with a clear three-time beat. He must be soft in the hand, not running through the contact or behind your leg.
You must allow him to be in self-carriage and not be restricting with the rein. If an elastic contact or obedience to the aids isn’t consistent, you should work on half-halts and transitions before trying these exercises.
TACKLING THE ISSUE
1 Ride a 20m circle in canter, preferably in the middle of your arena, making sure you have an active canter with correct bend. Canter a complete circle and then give and retake the contact as you ride over the centre line, without him falling on his forehand (see diagram, right).
2 Stay on a circle and ask your horse to trot, making sure he stays in balance and doesn’t fall onto his forehand. Once you have established a balanced, active trot, pick up canter again.
The shape and size of the circle will encourage your horse to engage his hindlegs, so allow the circle to help you. Give him time and prepare for each transition.
Ride as many transitions as it takes to ensure they are accurate and forward.
3 Once you can ride a fluent canter-trot-canter transition, reduce the number of strides you trot for.
4 In canter, ask him to go forward (with more power but not faster) for a few strides, so that he takes a more extended stride.
Then ask him, through your seat and a half-halt, to come back to your “normal” canter again. This will teach him to go forward with more energy and impulsion, and avoids a “flat” canter. Make sure you practise the exercises on both reins.
‘Not all natives find canter easy’
Samantha Roberts, pictured here with ridden champion KnavesashKnight, has secured victories at HOYS, Royal International and Olympia