One Exercise I Love to Use When Developing the Canter

One Exercise I Love to Use When Developing the Canter

Welcome back! Last week, we discussed why the canter needs to be a primary focus in your training (yes, even more than the jumps, in many cases). If you haven’t read that yet, start here.

Before we dive into the exercises, I want to make an important point. When you start to develop a truly connected and engaged canter, it may feel different to you. It may feel intimidating, and you may have an instinct to shut it down to a level that you feel comfortable with. I urge you to work with a trainer who can help you overcome this reaction, because it’s important that your entire body moves, absorbs, allows and encourages that connected canter. You can learn to adapt and go with it, but it takes work and moments of feeling uncomfortable.

Recommended: Karl’s Masterclass on Strategic Riding

I dive into this topic much more in my Equestrian Masterclass, as well as several other additional canter exercises outside of the one I’m about to share with you.

Now, let’s walk through the exercise. 

Three Poles on a Straight Line with Variable Striding

Setup: Set 3 ground poles in a straight line with 20 meters distance between each. First, walk the distance. Then, measure it, and finally, make sure you eyeball it to ensure that the poles are perfectly straight and parallel to each other. If they’re off, it will change the exercise. 

The Exercise: You’re going to canter through this line of poles and aim to achieve different numbers of strides, which will require a very different type of canter for each. This is one of the most useful ways to observe how your horse’s canter needs to change to accommodate the demands of the course, without relying on the jumps to do the balancing and set up for you. 

Here are some options, but the order is up to you:

  • First, Canter through in 6 strides to 6 strides
  • With a bigger canter, try for 5 strides 
  • With a very big canter, go for 4 strides. 
  • Shorten the canter and try for 7 strides. 
  • Then, you can play with going for different distances between the poles, so: 6 strides to 5 strides; 5 strides to 6 strides; 6 strides to 7 strides, and so on. 

The Goal: The goal for this exercise isn’t just to get it done, it’s to get it done in a canter that is connected and useful. After you canter through, ask yourself, ‘Would we have been okay if those were jumps?’ The poles take a lot of the risk out of the equation and allow you to experiment, progress, and improve more freely.

Find the complete Karl Cook lesson library and more at Equestrian Masterclass.