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Canter problems

canter-problemsWith a lot of horses it’s not easy to canter, especially on the circle. For example:

  • When they jump into canter on the left circle, they always makes it right, ending up in the ‘wrong’ canter.
  • On right lead they go through their left shoulder and end up crossfiring.
  • They canter very much downhill, speeding up enormously.
  • They are very heavy on the reins, using the reins as a fifth leg.
  • They start to ‘tranter‘, so they canter with the front legs and trot with the hind legs.
  • Their canter is really ‘pacy‘.
  • They start to buck during the canter.
  • They speed up and run faster and faster once cantering.


Now canter problems often arise from natural asymmetry; Most horses have a natural bend in the body, are left or right handed both in the front as in the hind legs.

Natural asymmetryIn motion this leads to horizontal, diagonal and vertical imbalance, especially in the canter, because of the diagonal shift of the center of mass.

So when the horse is out of balance and doesn’t use the carrying ability of the hind legs – only the pushing ability – all kinds of canter problems as described above might occurs.


The old grandmaster from the Baroque time, François Robichon de La Guérinière writes in his book about when to start he canter:

“One must wait until the horse is supple in its entire body, trained to the shoulder-in and the croup to the wall and is accomplished in the piaffe…..”

So the solution is to develop the carrying ability of the hind legs first, by applying the 6 keys of Straightness Training, and only when the carrying ability of the hind legs is developed, you can start to develop the canter.

So when a horse has issues with the canter, it helps to first teach this horse all versal and traversal exercises (shoulder-in, haunches-in, renvers, half pass, pirouette) in walk so that the hind legs are able to carry in order to avoid that the horse will ‘push’ himself into the canter and to avoid tempo and rhythm issues.


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