Lesson topic: "Canter is key".


When carried out correctly, this exercise uses transitions within a pace to create an engaged hind leg and an upward powerful canter, which is necessary for jumping.

To begin with set up canter poles in your arena. If you want to achieve an open, normal canter space your poles four strides apart. For a more contained, engaged canter, space your poles five strides apart. 

In a 20x40m school you would set the poles up along both long sides. You should work on getting four strides on one long side and five strides on the other.

In a larger space, you could set up another set of poles 19 yards beyond the first set (so there are three poles in a row) to work further on control. Try four-five-four or five-four-five strides.

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When you come to ride over the poles you want to aim for a more uphill canter. Imagine that you are working on your horse’s gears prior to going into the ring at a competition.

Rider focus

  • Make sure that you are still using your leg to create a forwards movement while keeping a soft contact. Also make sure that you always ride ‘leg up into hand’ and never ‘hand to leg’.
  • The key is to prepare your transitions and approach to the poles. Your hands must be soft.   Use your seat and core muscles to maintain balance and rhythm on approach with a soft, flexible contact.
  • Be aware of tension in your arms, especially from shoulder to elbow.
  • On a sharp horse try a lighter seat.
  • The repetition of this exercise is essential. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
  • This is an easy exercise to set up, making it a good one to practise regularly.

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