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Why do we trot before canter?

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  • Why do we trot before canter?

    Just curious. My boy seems to like the canter better and it loosens him up better. But I'm stuck in the mentality that to warm up, I walk, I trot, and then I canter. But why?

  • #2
    No reason to do it that way, other than "tradition." Trump (below) always benefited from doing a bit of cantering and maybe even popping over a crossrail or two before trotting.
    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

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    • #3
      I don't really have an answer for you but I do have a horse that anticipates the next gait really bad. So my trainer told me to walk around a bit and then start with the canter one day and the trot another so my horse wouldn't know what would be asked of him. I did notice that when I walked-trotted-then cantered he always knew what was coming up next....


      It definitely worked but I was always under the same mentality...w-t-c... curious to see what others have to say
      Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
      Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
      Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
      Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook

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      • #4
        I usually canter ADD TB Mare in the winter and do some canter and circle work before moving to my trot/walk. Seems to settle her mind a little bit. I will also "gasp" sometimes do my course work before flat if she's REALLY feeling her oats that day.

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        • #5
          Perhaps from riding school lessons?

          I find there are some days my mare does better with a nice off-her-back canter to loosen her up. Plus when I turn her loose for a run in the indoor she doesn't follow the walk-trot-canter pattern

          I would do whatever warm-up works best for your horse.

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          • #6
            For me, trotting comes first to see if they are sound! With all my past (and surely future) lameness battles, it is just part of the checklist, which starts with seeing they still have four legs intact when I get them out, shoes on, no heat, swelling, or gaping wounds, etc. So they have to get to trotting sound before I canter. Just part of the checklist!

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            • #7
              Tradition, really. As long as the horse gets a chance to warm up its muscles and click its brain into gear during a nice long walk before you change gaits, it's often perfectly appropriate to canter before trotting. With older horses - say 15 or 16 and up - I find that cantering first (on a long or even a loose rein) typically allows them to warm up and stretch their backs very effectively. The best way to find out what will be most suitable for any individual horse is to ask the horse directly: Try trotting first, then cantering, and notice the comfort level of your horse and the quality of both gaits. Then the next time out, canter first (after your walk warm-up, of course) and then trot - again, notice the comfort level of your horse and the quality of both gaits. You may find that your horse reliably offers a much better, more balanced trot if it's allowed to walk, then canter, and then trot; if your horse seems perfectly fine either way, then I'd say it's down to your personal preference.
              Home page: www.jessicajahiel.com
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              • #8
                I always warm up canter before trot work.
                I start out with walking, including leg yields, TOH, TOF, walk-halt transitions. Then I canter on a fairly loose rein as long as he isn't sight seeing. Then walk again to catch our breath and then alternate trot and canter work. FWIW, canter is his best gait so we often go back to it if his trot work is not forward or is too stiff.

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                • #9
                  Some horses warm up better in canter. That ingrained "walk, trot, canter in both directions" stuff comes from lessons, I believe. We get stuck in defining a ride as having to contain certain elements. Horses are individuals, however, so what constitutes a great ride may have all those elements or none of them*.

                  *I know I'm not the only person who's had an intended ride turn into mounting block training session or in-hand conversation about something else.
                  "I did know once, only I've sort of forgotten." - Winnie the Pooh

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                  • #10
                    I have a mare (26 now) who needed a flat stick gallop, then she blew out her breath and relaxed.....ready now ! The first run, out hunting, was always interesting too.
                    ... _. ._ .._. .._

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                    • #11
                      I had never really thought of this. I think I might try it on my guy - he definitely anticipates that first canter, and can get very tense and won't relax, which can spoil the ride. Maybe it'll be easier if there's nothing to anticipate!

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                      • #12
                        I've always wondered the same thing myself. Being a Dressage rider, I'm taught that you should start by posting the trot to warm up the horse, but some horses do seem to loosen up more after canter.
                        Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

                        Originally posted by DottieHQ
                        You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.

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                        • #13
                          Rode an older mare years ago and we would go for a nice long walk for about 15 mins then when I asked her to step up to the trot I always got this lopey canter about 1/2 way around the ring - when she was ready she would come down to the trot and be all business. I asked the vet and he told me to let her warm up the way she thought her body needed!

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                          • #14
                            smart vet, KnKShowmom.
                            I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                            I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

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                            • #15
                              In the winter I always warm up jet with cantering after I just trot a fig 8 to make sure he didn't do anything silly and hurt himself during the night. He tends to be pretty hot and sensitive, and trying to trot to warm up just makes him hotter. Picking up a canter gets him settled much quicker (and it isn't like sitting on a powder keg), and then I can trot.
                              It's also recommended by some, to warm up arthritic horses by cantering first.

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                              • #16
                                Many days I "Need" to canter Miss Mare before we trot. My dressage trainer prefers we canter first. Her reasoning is the back movement required in canter loosens her back up naturally and improves our trot. Any time we are having difficulty a short canter reminds her that yes she can use her back. Miss Mare would dearly love to trot around all stiff and tense but a canter makes her much better. Sometimes her trot gets irregular due to stiffness so we canter. Trot is always better after.

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                                • #17
                                  When I was still in competition mode with my old guy we would frequently have a long walk first, trot a lap or two and then canter for a few minutes each direction before we started any 'training' for the day. He seemed to break out of the cobwebs in the canter, this wasn't a relaxing thing in our case, more a 'it's time to work' and get in the grove thing.

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                                  • #18
                                    My horse definitely loosens up better if we do a nice long, marching walk in both directions and then a little cantering on a relaxed rein. I do trot a long side in between just to make sure he's even and sound and then we canter. I find he relaxes fasted and uses his back more if we canter first and takes longer to round up and use himself if we do trot work before canter.

                                    The exception is if it's very cold--below freezing, we'll do less walking and use a slow trot for the initial warm-up, not an icky barely moving Western pleasure jog, but a slow sitting trot..enough to warm up his muscles and joints without overextending them before they're ready. He's not as young as he used to be, and this helps him to loosen up in the cold.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SunkenMeadow's SS View Post
                                      Many days I "Need" to canter Miss Mare before we trot. My dressage trainer prefers we canter first. Her reasoning is the back movement required in canter loosens her back up naturally and improves our trot. Any time we are having difficulty a short canter reminds her that yes she can use her back. Miss Mare would dearly love to trot around all stiff and tense but a canter makes her much better. Sometimes her trot gets irregular due to stiffness so we canter. Trot is always better after.
                                      My TB used to have to canter before he could trot half decently due to his tendency toward a tight back. Now we don't usually have to canter first, but sometimes do.

                                      At my lesson the other day it was getting dark and a storm hit as we were starting and he threatened to absolutely flip his lid. We ended up doing canter/halt/canter for a while before we could do anything else with his hooves anywhere near as close as they were supposed to be to the ground, so we skipped the walk, also.
                                      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
                                      -meupatdoes

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                                      • #20
                                        Until we canter, my QH refuses to enter his "working mode". He's just a lazy lesson horse until after that first canter. Then it's like WOW, this horse knows his stuff.

                                        So now I do a nice long walking warmup with plenty of stretching, a little bit of trotting to check for lameness, and then we canter. We "fight" a lot less that way.
                                        come what may

                                        Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013

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