Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: I was born in Germany, raised in Texas.
OP, I think you've gotten tons of good advice here so I'm probably just repeating but I too have children in the age range of yours and taught them how to handle a canter. As mentioned, the horse's personality is of utmost importance. I taught my kids to canter on a 30 year old Tennessee Walker who tolerates just about anything and anyone and has to be pushed into a canter/lope. His canter is also very easy going and comfortable to adjust to. Cantering really is like learning how to ride a bike. It's a feel that basically needs to be overcome mentally first and then one's sense of balance has to take over. Once comfortable with just the transition and feel, then the fine tunings can be applied. I agree that leaning back helps one sit deeper in the saddle, but the leaning WAY back would make even me feel uncomfortable and I've ridden for 25 years. I would tell her to lean back far enough to where she could reach the cantle of her saddle with one hand, but that should be enough. Maybe even tell her to grab the cantle for a stride or two, and continue to have her keep that back straight and shoulders back and then talk her through rocking that pelvis to the beat. Riding a canter is all about rhythm and balance and that will come once she is comfortable with the whole idea in her head. Since she has had a few mishaps, it may take a little longer, but with time, it will come. My 9 year old learned how to canter when she was 7. She learned in tiny baby steps. And she learned by riding along side my horse. We have a home tilled track on our pasture and every time we rode, we'd do a lot of transitions from walk to trot, and every time we trotted, we'd trot a tad faster and faster (and she's an excellent poster by the way, which I think is an important skill to keep your balance in control while speeding up), until my horse was finally loping and her horse finally fell into a few canter strides just to keep up and then I'd slow us right back down. And she did all this in an English saddle. It was actually her saddle of choice because she felt she had better control of her legs on the thinner English stirrup leathers. Anyway, for us it was more of a game and it developed naturally just messing around together. If she felt uncomfortable, she knew to sit down deep and he slowed right down. Now she wants to lope so much, we had to get her a younger horse, who is still very broke, but young enough to handle her. LOL! Oh and the one rein stop is also a super important lesson to teach them. A child is never going to win a tug of war if a horse decides to bolt. My daughter who is now 9, almost 10, uses this method on her new horse and it works beautifully. It's a great ebrake skill to know even if you don't use it on a daily basis. It gave my daughter even more confidence just knowing she had the option, and it's much more controlled and easier on the horse's mouth too, as long as he knows how to do it. Anyway, I don't know if I said anything new, but I guess what it all boils down to is time. She'll get there. Most of us are introduced to a bike when we're 4-5 years old and I don't think I've met a kid yet that's not racing a buddy down the driveway by the time they are pushing 10. That kind of comfort didn't happen overnight or with one or two rides a month. So that's the key, time, plenty of exposure, and the "want" to do it. Eventually it becomes second nature and fun! Good luck! :)