Readers Write: Canter Leads

Riding Questions

? Arianna Delin

“I have 3 weeks to teach my 4 year old mare her leads so that we can go the show I entered us in. I need a Magic button for an instant canter!!!! P.S. it has to be an English button!” —

“I don’t have a “magic button, but here is how I teach green horses leads. The length of time this will take depends on how well prepared and balanced your horse is at this point. It’s best to wait until a horse can do some basic lateral work and you are able to push the hip over before working on leads. It’s easier to teach in a smallish arena, a round pen, or on a large circle. If working in a rectangular arena gather the horse up by riding forward into the bit (horse is trotting) coming out of the first corner on the short side. After a few strides and a couple of strides before the second corner I apply the aids for the canter. Inside leg at girth, outside leg behind girth and moving horse’s hip over, I move my inside hand a little forward and out and support with the outside rein. If working on a circle or round pen it doesn’t matter where you ask for the departure as the horse will be bent to the inside anyway. I don’t pull with the inside hand, it’s a guiding hand and an open door for the horse to go through. I want to be able to see their inside eye a little and have their nose tipped to the inside a little. Same as the bend for a circle. If working on the trail on a straightaway I will pick a tree up ahead on the side of the trail that I want the horse to lead with and look and ride towards that tree before and throughout the departure. ” — Claudia Smith

“The canter depart at the beginning is through the trot. Not a strung out trot but a slower balanced trot. Best place to ask for the departure is at the first corner since the horse will be bent correctly and it’s easier for them to take the correct lead. If they get the lead, pat them on the neck and praise and keep cantering maybe once around the arena. Then let them walk as a reward. If the horse doesn’t get the lead, then bring it back to a trot – quietly – make a big circle, balance and slow the trot and ask again. Too much cantering can make them anticipate and get quick and fast. That’s why it takes time and to do a good job you can’t rush it or drill on leads.” — Britehorse

“When I train ponies I always ride them as if they have all the training. I use the same aids I use on a trained mount. And eventually the ponies catch on to what the cues mean. Basically, the aid for the canter cue is to bend them to the direction you want them to canter on (but stay on the rail), put your inside leg AT the girth, and your outside leg BEHIND the girth, and use a light nudge. This is the cue for canter. It really depends on the pony, as to how fast they will learn it and how nicely they will do it. Basically just work consistently with your pony. Do LOTS of transitions (this REALLY
starts to get the ponies working better). Every 5-10 strides change pace – from walk, halt, walk,trot, canter, trot, canter, walk, etc… Do it relaxed and give your aid quietly (The quieter your aid the better they usually respond)” — DezertRose

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