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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 8, 2010

    Default Teaching canter

    This is a question for all of the instructors out there.

    How do you know a kid is ready to begin the canter?

    I have a young student now who is getting there... she can post with no hands, two point with no hands, twisting and hands on head and all in post and two point. She can sit the trot with stirrups, we're working on without stirrups for now.

    She's actually anti-handsey... really strange for as young as she is, but she dislikes using the reins and it's something I always have to remind her of (she is 7). It's a pleasant break from the kids who ONLY want to use reins and try to balance with them.

    The horse she rides has a comfortable western jog that she sits very well with or without stirrups, but it's his WOW I TROT! trot that is tough for her to sit. (Hell, it can be tough for me to sit when he really gets going).

    I know we have some more work to do at the trot, but I was just curious what your steps are to teaching the canter.

    I have seen some instructors teach the kid to sit w/t/c with a grab strap on a lunge line before going back to the trot to perfect steering and rein work off the lunge, and I've seen instructors not allow a kid to canter until their trot rein work off the lunge was perfect, even though they would be cantering on the lunge.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr. 16, 2003


    At my barn we start canter on the lunge always with a grab strap. The student has to be able to steer quite successfully at trot before canter is even discussed (think be able to ride Intro B with scores in the mid 50s) as well as be able to trot in 2 point with no bobbling about thereby ensuring that the kid understands heels down is not at all optional!

    We don't teach sitting trot until well after canter at my barn since most of our horses are big movers. I do teach the kids how to not bounce too much at the trot in the second lesson so they have a fall back when their posting goes haywire.

    Member Appaloosa lovers clique

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2002


    Depends on the kid. And to a certain degree on the horse. If it is a small kid, I'll start them cantering on a pony sooner than I would start them cantering on a big horse. Reason: Canter on a pony is usually a smaller movement than on a big horse. Either way, if it is a small kid I want them on a horse without alot of stride/movement at the canter to start with. Kid needs to be very secure at the trot before I start cantering. Again, depending on the kid, I may start teaching cantering after the kid is trotting flower boxes and small x-rails, or I may teach the cantering first. Sometimes it is easier to teach canter when the pony goes over a x-rail and takes one or two steps at a canter, and then comes back to a trot. Kid feels a couple of strides of the canter without going into the "omg I'm cantering" mode, and kid sees it is no big deal. Then, I can go ahead and have them actually canter and the kid remains calm about it. Other times, I have kid start cantering, usually starting with just a canter down one long side or part of one long side. Once they are secure cantering just the long side, I'll add in the turn or corner.
    Regardless, I am not in a hurry to teach a 7 year old to canter. Yes, I will, but usually on a pony, and usually when the kid is starting to get bored with the trot and is really solid at a trot, posting, sitting, and in two-point.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep. 12, 2006


    well I'm not a trainer, but have a 7 yr old who just learned to canter, so I can impart what worked for her.

    When she was being taught the first time (with a trainer that we no longer ride with), she was trotting well off lunge for about 6 months, half seat, sitting trot etc. She was also trotting cross rails at the time. Her trainer preferred to have her go into the canter off a cross rail so she could get the feel for it for a few steps. Once she had felt it and seemed confident and strong, the trainer asked her to pick up the canter. Unfortunately this pony was the type that will trot faster than you've ever seen her go rather than pick up a canter, so it was a little tough to learn for her because she was already a little off balance from the super fast small pony trot into a fast small pony canter. Had some bad falls as a result of this which scared her off cantering for several months.

    She changed barns and ponies and finally learned to canter on two dead quiet but well trained ponies, who had a nice quiet, easy canter. She was taught to get into the half seat in the corners and kick kick kick until the pony cantered, then to sit down and keep kicking . She had a much better time doing this, was less scary because the ponies easily cantered and were nice and slow, so she finally got over her fear.

    My point i guess is that it is really important to have the right pony, something that's responsive but quiet. I like the idea of cantering a few steps off the cross rail that was helpful for her to get the feel of it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006


    lol! Depends on the kid, the horse/pony, time of the year ...

    Another thing to consider, besides the purely physical attributes necessary to canter (such as balance, etc), are the 'mental' attibutes of the rider.

    Will she be completely spooked if something happens and she falls off? Is she able to follow commands quickly and easily without getting flustered? So if something goes south and you call out to halt, will she drop the reins and cry or be able to halt? Is she bored doing what she is doing and ready for a challenge?
    Last edited by Come Shine; Oct. 20, 2010 at 11:39 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
    Triangle Area, NC


    honestly? when they beg for it.
    I teach canter on a straight line and I pony them from another horse, and they start in a little half seat with a neck tie.
    chaque pas est fait ensemble

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar. 4, 2007
    Western Washington


    At the barn where I take lessons, students start cantering on the longe. From the walk. The instructors focus on canter departs. Canter a few steps, then back to the walk.

    This approach minimizes the anxiety for the student, as well as losing balance. Before that, they're able to demonstrate a secure, independent seat through the trot and walk, obviously.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct. 9, 2010


    I teach it on the straight away as well. Just canter down the long side. Once they are stable in their two point and posting and can hold there two point for a canter down the long side. They I have them trot around the ring and ask for the canter in the corner and canter down the long side and come back to the trot in the next corner.
    Mitkowski Equine Services
    Love my Fjord Magni "Tigger" and my HanoxTb Frescoe "Wenny" --- My boys

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 12, 2007


    Once they can post without stirrups. It shows enough balance and leg strength to handle missteps, and other unexpected occurrences. Whether the lounge or straight line- depends on the horse. The ones with small, slow gaits and good voice commands are easier on the lounge. The ones with bigger gaits feel too forward on a lounge circle and are better down the straight away. Whether sitting or in two-point depends on the kid.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2005


    i would hold off until she can post without stirrups as then she will learnto sit in and balance herself
    my motto dont run before you can walk

    i also teach canter in a striaght line on a lunge line and then on there own me or debs will run besides the pony but i do it in my field or in the bottom field
    as raspberry has been doing this for years and will canter from the bottom to the top in a striaght line on her own ,

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun. 30, 2000
    sunny southern vermont


    When a student has developed a secure, independent seat at the walk, trot, and sitting trot without stirrups and can consistently produce decent downward transitions without pulling on the reins, I'll usually let them give it a try. I too believe it is easier to start in a corner and just go down one long side of the arena at first-- easier than sitting on a longe circle. I will have the student hold the grab handle with the inside hand, along with the (loose) inside rein. She uses the outside rein to steer just enough to stay straight (NOT pulled to the outside) and I'll have her start from a walk or slow sitting trot, depending on the pony. I will give her a clue as to the aids, but the actual aid is my voice and the ponies' knowledge of lesson procedure.

    I really like the technique of using just the inside hand on the grab handle. It releases the pony and gives the rider a little mental security without compromising control.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb. 5, 2002


    It totally depends on what horse is available and the personality of the kid. I do make sure that before they go to any kind of show, even if they're only entering walk-trot, that they have some degree of comfort at the canter "in case their horse makes a mistake." I also really like them to have cantered a bit indoors before they are responsible for trotting in the open with no pony horse nearby. It takes some of the fear factor away -- or lets you know that you need to keep them home and indoors, until they get more confident!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan. 31, 2010


    I learned to teach at a barn whose answer to that question would be "by lesson 12 they canter!"

    Now it is really instinct, and very dependent on which horse they are riding. I do have them trot poles and tiny x's before I let them canter so that I know their post is strong enough to be able to compensate for the horse changing its rythm or taking a bigger step.

    I also want them to be able to hold a trot two point for at least the length of the arena.

    I have never actually had a handsy beginner, and none of my beginner horses use bits. I do try to start them on the lunge for cantering...unless they are riding my Rocket horse...he will canter for only as long as I I find it easier to just canter beside him (on foot) so they aren't on a continuous circle.

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