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This is a follow-up to my last two tutorials on walk and trot - now the canter! 
Again, I am focusing on how the rider should be following the movement of the horse within the connection, so in this tutorial I am trying to demonstrate the movement of the rider's body with the hands forward to the contact, following the natural movement of the horse. I am trying to illustrate how to move in harmony, with no interference, allowing your horse to move naturally underneath you.
Obviously, as soon as we sit on the horse we change their balance, so how can we try to enhance the horse with a positive effect, to make his job as easy as possible.
Initially, I give a bit of a recap on my previous tutorials, and then I  go on to talk about preparing for the transition and how to follow the horse in the canter with both your body and your hands. There is one video clip taken in slow motion to try and help you see the movement more clearly.
I talk about the movement being similar to the type of movement required to get a swing to move when you’re sitting stationary in the park (think about how you'd get the swing to move underneath you) and the small feeling of rowing with your hands to follow the movement in the canter. I also talk about overuse of the outside leg, and that the impulsion comes from your inside leg; your outside leg really just initiates the counter. Personally, I like to sit a little bit to the inside in the canter, keeping a very light inside seat bone, with my hips and shoulders parallel to the horses, and a nice loose leg hanging down in front of my body line.
I hope you enjoy this and find it useful. If you have any questions please message me on either Facebook or Instagram @sarahwilliamsdressage and I will be happy to help in any way I can!
Stay safe, stay inspired, and keep on learning from each other.
Video Transcript;

"Hi guys.

"So this is a follow up to the walk and the trot, the contact within the movement; so how the horse moves, how you have to move in the contact, in the walk and the trot. I've done that and I'm now going to do the canter today.

"Quick recap in the walk; hands going forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, forward, back. And my hips are swinging - I'll exaggerate it, which is what you don't want to do – forward, back, forward, back – you just want to follow the movement of the horse. So just swing within relation to your horse’s size, of the walk.

"I'm just going to recap the trot, so we're going to go into just a normal sort of low-necked stretchy trot. So I’ve got him quite long today, because it’s an easy day for him. He's having a little play with his stallion flick, which is fine by me, because it loosens his back up, and I trust him. So elbows; bent, straight, bend, straight - I'll exaggerate it - as my body goes up, my elbows straighten, and as my body goes down, my elbows bend, like small press-up.

"Obviously you need to have a steady hand, bend and straighten your elbows, and the horse needs to be within the connection; it needs to feel like you've got a couple of Chihuahuas  and you're taking them for a walk.

"Over the back, horizontal frame. I don’t mind wherever he puts himself today, because it’s an easy day for him and he’ll tell me where he’s tight if I allow him to do that.

"At the top, prepared for the canter transition. So try to make sure that you have enough impulsion before you ask for the canter; so your inside leg is asking for impulsion, so that should be sorted.  Your outside leg just initiates the canter; it's not there to heave the horse into canter.

"A mistake a lot of people make is they use too much outside leg and the horse then bucks into the canter, because it’s either croup high, or the impulsion or the connection is not correct, so they have to give an over-strong aid sometimes into the canter. I hold my hand up; I'm guilty of that sometimes myself. So it's something we just need to be aware of.

"Shorten my reins a little bit, keep the same rhythm, check that I’ve got enough impulsion - he's still a bit playful, which I don't mind, I just keep the connection soft. So I sit, and then just ask very softly with the outside leg. So my inside leg is slightly forward, my outside leg stays slightly back. That's the transition.

"So we’ve got a fairly balanced, sort of again, horizontal type canter – could go either way; croup high or onto the floor. He’s relatively straight. I wouldn't stay on circles all the time, but you can hear me better if I do. So hands; forward, back, forward, back – rowing – forward, back, forward, back forward, back, forward, back, forward, back. Exaggerating it so you can see.

"Like a swing in the park – you know when you want to get a swing in the park going and no one’s pushing you – it’s that movement. Swing, swing, swing. So exaggerate. Arms; forward, back, forward, back, forward, back. Hips; swing, swing, swing. So I’m just letting him do what he wants to do. I’m really focusing more on so you can see what the movement is.

"He's falling through the left shoulder a little bit, so I just ride those lovely diamonds that I’m always talking about. I’m still going forward, back, forward, back, swing, swing, swing, hips, hips, hips, elbows, elbows, straight, bend, straight, bend, straight, bend, straight, bend.

"So as you see I exaggerate it, he moves on a bit and opens his body. Now I reduce it - so I'm still following - and he starts to shorten a little bit. Take my body tall, lighten my seat a little bit, and he comes back. Okay.

"What we did in the slow-mo video; so trotting, elbows bent, straight. Lovely, taking the reins – he’s a little bit low but I don’t mind. Sit soft, and then really I just had to touch him with my outside leg, he knew what was coming. And then, normal working canter... whooo! Lost the outside shoulder, so I think diamonds... straight.

"So I bring my hands to the inside, see like that, to bring the horse in - I don't pull inside rein. And then I leave the horse on the outside rein to correct that outside shoulder. And then, I only start half-halting on the outside rein, until the horse is into both reins.

"So I’m going to come back, so I just relax my seat, go rising, and there you are – it’s all done from my body. Relax, relaxed walk, no change in the contact."


Find out more about Sarah Williams and check out the rest of her helpful video tutorials, covering a range movements and transitions > View Sarah's profile here.


Sarah Williams
Horsemart Brand Ambassador
Published on 11-06-2020
Sarah is an international dressage rider who has her own yard, located at Yonder Farm in Kent. She has been a brand ambassador for Horsemart since November 2018. Sarah is a List 2 Judge, UKCC Level 3 Advanced Dressage Trainer, BHS AI and is a BD approved apprentice trainer. She is an extremely knowledgeable and passionate Grand Prix rider with International status.