Sitting the canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 04-21-2019, 11:46 PM Thread Starter
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Sitting the canter

Hi all! Got some questions about my canter. But first, a bit of backstory, in case it's helpful.

I started riding June of last year, took 4 lessons, then stopped due to the summer heat. (Riding in 105+ weather? I think I'd like to live, thanks.) I started back up in late fall, and have been riding since. Not weekly, though, due to rain and holidays and such. I only rode once in December and once in February.

I started cantering on a leadline back in, mmmm, maybe early March? My instructor has, pretty much from the start, told me I do it wonderfully. Heels down, head up, rolling nicely in the saddle. I've been off the lead for about 3 weeks now.

I feel like I'm pretty bouncy in the saddle, though - at the very least, I know I come up off it a bit when I roll my hips forward. (But I also weigh 75 pounds. Not much keeping me anchored except my heels, half-chaps and the determination to not go flying. :'D) My instructor says I sit it beautifully, though. Am I supposed to roll forward and back? Is there a way I can stay more secure in the saddle?

Also, my confidence is a bit lacking. I was so blown away when she took me off the lead. I was positive I wasn't ready! I couldn't canter more than a lap without grabbing my saddle pad! How did she expect me to steer? But I did it, because I kind of trust her more than myself, haha.

It. Was. AMAZING. So much easier than cantering on the leadline. No gravity to pull me to one side! Also, it forced me to lift my hands. Total gamechanger.

My horse is a silly old thing, and likes to examine the dust he kicks up. Once he quickly lowered his neck while I was on the lead, sending me flying forward. I had no reins and my only option was to cling to his neck - that, or go tail over teakettle.

Ever since, I've just been.....cautious. I'm not afraid, exactly, I just feel like I'm waiting for him to do it again. His back legs also slip, which throws me off. I love cantering, it's my favorite out of all the gaits so far. The walk is, well, a walk. And who actually likes posting the trot? :'D

Anyway, I guess my question is how do I feel at ease with myself and my horse at the canter?

Thanks! 🙂
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post #2 of 8 Old 04-22-2019, 07:40 AM
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What a rider feels when riding can sometimes be different from what spectators observe. That said, here are some things to think about.

Sitting the canter well develops most easily when a rider has learned to sit the walk and trot well.

Most riders don’t consider how they sit the walk, because it is easy to sit the walk almost any old way. To sit the walk well, however, the rider should be balanced and relaxed – not slouchy, but without tension, allowing the bones to support the body’s weight while the muscles are allowed to move freely.

Sitting the trot well may prove a bit more difficult, partly depending on how a particular horse moves. Again, however, the important thing is for the rider to be balanced and moving freely. Any unnecessary tension in the rider’s muscles will tend to encourage bouncing.

Finally, in the canter, the same principles apply even though the movements of the rider’s body change. In all cases, the rider’s body should be following the horse’s movements. Once this becomes an established habit, the rider can begin to more easily alter the horse’s movements by altering his or her own movements.

Being “cautious” often leads to muscular tension. To overcome this, a rider should consider several things. When I release muscular tension, I release the blocking of gravity. When I allow gravity to do its job, my body is drawn downward. If I am balanced over my horse’s center of balance, much of my weight is equally distributed on either side of the horse beneath the horse’s spine. This makes it very difficult to fall off. Again, if my muscles are free to move quickly, they can better respond to any quick changes in the horse’s movements.
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post #3 of 8 Old 04-22-2019, 11:05 AM
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The first video is from a sale of young horses. I slowed it down because we can see things in slow motion we miss in real time. I think a lot of us have a mental picture of being firmly in the saddle, but a canter takes a fair bit of movement. Security comes from balancing with the horse, not from a stable seat:


This is an instructional video by a western rider:


Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #4 of 8 Old 04-22-2019, 06:01 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TXhorseman View Post
What a rider feels when riding can sometimes be different from what spectators observe. That said, here are some things to think about.

Sitting the canter well develops most easily when a rider has learned to sit the walk and trot well.

Most riders don’t consider how they sit the walk, because it is easy to sit the walk almost any old way. To sit the walk well, however, the rider should be balanced and relaxed – not slouchy, but without tension, allowing the bones to support the body’s weight while the muscles are allowed to move freely.

Sitting the trot well may prove a bit more difficult, partly depending on how a particular horse moves. Again, however, the important thing is for the rider to be balanced and moving freely. Any unnecessary tension in the rider’s muscles will tend to encourage bouncing.

Finally, in the canter, the same principles apply even though the movements of the rider’s body change. In all cases, the rider’s body should be following the horse’s movements. Once this becomes an established habit, the rider can begin to more easily alter the horse’s movements by altering his or her own movements.

Being “cautious” often leads to muscular tension. To overcome this, a rider should consider several things. When I release muscular tension, I release the blocking of gravity. When I allow gravity to do its job, my body is drawn downward. If I am balanced over my horse’s center of balance, much of my weight is equally distributed on either side of the horse beneath the horse’s spine. This makes it very difficult to fall off. Again, if my muscles are free to move quickly, they can better respond to any quick changes in the horse’s movements.
I have been told I sit the walk and trot very well, with the exception of my horse's slipping legs. I do my best to stay nice and relaxed in the saddle. I could just be over thinking it and comparing myself - one of my downfalls. I think I just need to practice a bit more and feel good about it.
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post #5 of 8 Old 04-22-2019, 06:08 PM
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it's just doing it, and doing it, and doing it more.


It's only natural to grip up when we canter, but it ends up making things bouncier. I have this issue, too, and I've been riding for 20+ years! Part of it is, for me, that I am not that flexible in my lower back, and am always bracing to protect it from the force of the horse's back banging up into me.
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post #6 of 8 Old 04-22-2019, 06:28 PM
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What really helped me too was hearing the gaits compared to different motions we are already familiar with. I ride western so we don't post as much at the jog, but my instructor always compared the walk to a forward and back motion, a trot to a side to side movement, and a lope to hula hooping. It takes a lot of riding to figure out what muscles to engage and how tightly to engage them while also relaxing them. It also helps to ride several different horses to get a feel for some different gaits and to ride bareback even at a walk to get a better feel for your balance. Hopefully that helps!
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post #7 of 8 Old 05-16-2019, 11:06 AM
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I often have the same issue even though I sit the trot really well. We often start tensing up trying to 'anchor' ourselves. I found it best to relax and put more weight into the passive side (the leg that is not actively cuing the canter- the inside leg). So that means heels down, legs long and more weight into the hip of the passive side. This frees the active side to keep the canter without making the horse stop due to 'bracing and forcing to anchor'. It's worked for me, anyway..though different strokes for different folks. If you use this method, you have to have a strong foundation to make sure your not accidentally leaning on the passive side. Your seat is important to keeping the canter. If you feel like you're bouncing, you might not be bouncing as much as you think to outside viewers, BUT if you're feeling disconnected then you do not have an established communication with your horse. Seat is important in any gait.

cantering on, into the familiar and unknown
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post #8 of 8 Old 05-16-2019, 11:24 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finalcanter View Post
I often have the same issue even though I sit the trot really well. We often start tensing up trying to 'anchor' ourselves. I found it best to relax and put more weight into the passive side (the leg that is not actively cuing the canter- the inside leg). So that means heels down, legs long and more weight into the hip of the passive side. This frees the active side to keep the canter without making the horse stop due to 'bracing and forcing to anchor'. It's worked for me, anyway..though different strokes for different folks. If you use this method, you have to have a strong foundation to make sure your not accidentally leaning on the passive side. Your seat is important to keeping the canter. If you feel like you're bouncing, you might not be bouncing as much as you think to outside viewers, BUT if you're feeling disconnected then you do not have an established communication with your horse. Seat is important in any gait.
Huh, I've never heard about putting more weight to one side! I don't feel disconnected, per say, just that I'm maybe bouncing a little more than I think I should. I haven't cantered in a few weeks, I've gotten a little gunshy with my horse. He's slipping his stifles and it makes me hesitant, because I definitely do not want them to slip while I'm cantering, since he shoots forward to correct himself.
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