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4 Beat Canter

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  • 4 Beat Canter

    I recently looked at a horse with a 4 beat canter. I really like the horse in other aspects, but the canter seems unbalanced, so it is hard to sit and become comfortable. This is a 4 yo ottb, so laziness is not a problem. She has been in training with a professional for a year, so I am wondering if I should hold off on this horse. What are your thoughts?

  • #2
    A four beat canter isn't an immediate turn-off for me. It's one of those issues that I've found can be fairly approachable with a combination of good riding (impulsion from behind, balance in front, don't hold the face) and gymnastics (I found cavaletti exercises to be particularly helpful).

    I had a horse with a quality walk and a pretty solid canter (trot was only so-so) but when the canter got flat, strung out (so he was going "forward" by laymen's terms because he certainly would go quickly, but not really balanced with impulsion from behind/connected over his topline) and heavier in front he would trend towards four-beating. Likewise, when you got the "smooth as glass" canter that (cough, cough) my trainer hated (but it was so lovely and ridable!) that was because he had disengaged the hind end and wasn't working over his topline. More leg, more jump/amplitude from behind, and then help get the shoulder out of the way.

    And these were issues that were popping in and out in a mature, well-schooled horse (second level, schooling third/fourth level dressage movements) so it wasn't a case of "young/green/lack of training".

    Some people have riding habits that lend themselves towards encouraging this type of canter (professionals and amateurs alike) so if you have an outside professional you work with whose riding you like, I would encourage going to look at the horse and have them sit on it and see what they think.

    (And then of course, assess your riding: are you capable of working to train a horse out of this way of going if it's not a conformational issue? Sometimes it may be, even though the majority of the situations I've come across were more riding mechanics rather than conformation.)


    • #3
      A young TB in training with a pro for a year that 4 beats raises some serious red flags to me. Either the trainer is really bad or afraid of the horse and has it really cranked down or there are underlying physical issues.

      If you really like the horse then move forward with a vet check - really review the back and feet.


      • #4
        I’ve had them lose their canter or feel unbalanced when in a growth spurt. Which could be going on with a 4 year old. It would certainly raise red flags in one I was buying.... but wouldn’t necessarily cause me to walk away. I own two horses (one 3* and one who did 1*) who can have a 4 beat canter. I personally prefer them to have a better natural canter but no horse is perfect.

        Buying horses is tough. I would try her again with a trainer or knowledgeable friend...and if you do go forward, get a PPE. It is NOT an unusual issue and can be the result of a ton of different reasons...some serious issues and others not. If it is just the way that horse goes....it can likely be improved. But whether you can improve it does depend on your skill. I never buy horse assuming I will make them bettter so I have to really like them now. But if you really like her...and while this is a negative you still like her....you are not nuts to go forward with a PPE.
        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


        • #5
          I would be interested in the amount of overtrack at the walk, as well as the horse's ability to reach under in the canter when at liberty. Usually a horse with a good walk, will have a good canter. Like the walk, the canter can be messed up with bad riding.

          As stated a PPE is always important whether the horse is $500 or $50, 000.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            It's a deal breaker for me. My mare had an incredible walk, was very forward, and had a horrible 4 beat canter until the day she died. While we worked through many physical ailments over the years, but retrospect I believe there was something much more sinister that was never diagnosed (perhaps KS?).

            If this was a lazy horse straight out of the field, I'd still be hard pressed to consider it. A young, forward horse in full training who 4 beats is a major red flag to me.