Improving the Canter Transition

A couple of weeks ago Phoenix and I had a lesson, where we learnt a very useful exercise.

Phoenix’s canter transitions are still a bit of a scrabble as she organises her legs and works out what each limb is doing. Now we’ve had some rain and the school surface isn’t so deep, I’m turning my attention to improving the canter transitions.

After establishing a twenty metre trot circle at R, so there are two open sides on the circle, I began leg yielding her out as I left the track and then once I crossed the centre line I straightened her up by leg yielding in one stride. We repeated this on both open sides of the arena a few times.

This exercise is really useful for getting Phoenix to move away from my leg and to accept the leg without rushing. As we left the track I used my inside leg to push her outwards with my outside rein opening slightly to almost lead her out as she’s still green to this sideways malarkey. Once she’d moved outwards, and the inside hind leg was stepping under her body more, I used the outside leg, closed the outside rein and straightened her body as we crossed the centre line. If she wanted to take slight counter flexion as I used my outside leg to push her inwards a couple of strides I let her. The aim of moving her inwards was to straighten her body and stop her falling out through her outside shoulder now that the inside hind was working more actively.

Once Phoenix had got the hang of this exercise in trot, I brought in the canter. After rising the lateral sequence, as she approached the track, I asked for canter.

The first step of canter is the outside hind leg, and the act of pushing Phoenix inwards just got her outside hindleg engaged so it could more easily push her into canter. Because she was straighter and more balanced the canter transition wasn’t so frantic. Well, once we’d repeated the exercise so that she had worked out what her legs were doing and we’d trotted the exercise enough that she wasn’t anticipating the transition! I did feel that immediately she went into a more correct and three time canter. On the right rein she often slides left through the transition, but this doesn’t happen when I’ve ridden the exercise to help prepare her.

Below is a video of me riding the exercise. Unfortunately it’s not that clear as the transition is close to the camera. The time after we rode the exercise she had a light bulb moment and nailed the transition. Next time the focus will be on getting less resistance in the lateral part of the exercise and then getting the canter transition straight after the leg yielding, but I’m really pleased with the effect this exercise had on Phoenix’s canter and with how she handled a fairly complex (for her!) series of questions.

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