Sally Cousins’ Weekly Training Tip: Different Kinds of Canters

We are delighted to host Sally Cousins as our newest guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.

Photo by Kasey Mueller

Photo by Kasey Mueller

From Sally:

At the lower levels, the working canter that is used in the dressage test is typically not the only type of canter that we need to use in our jumping phases. It is not until a horse is competing at the Intermediate or Advanced level that the canters in the dressage have the balance, energy and different lengths of stride that we need to be able to use in our jumping phases.

With all of my lower-level horses, I try to make sure I have several different canters that I can quickly access. The canter I need to a ramp faced jump on flat ground can be a bit lower in balance, longer in stride, and I can travel at more speed. A downhill vertical will call for a more uphill balance, shorter length of stride and less speed. On a spooky horse, I will make sure even if I am galloping at more speed that I ride it in a more uphill balance so it stays in front of my leg.

We need to be able to pick the balance and activity of the canter at all speeds. If a horse doesn’t balance well at speed, then we need to slow the horse down until we can get to a speed where we can get the balance that the jump calls for. Usually the fastest cross-country horses are not the fastest horses in general, but the ones that are the easiest to set up for the jumps.

Even in the show jumping, we need several different canters. We need a different canter to a 36-foot two-stride than we would to a 33-foot two-stride line. I don’t think our goal should be to have smooth jump rounds but to be able to get the canter required for the questions asked by the course designer. Their job is to set a course that tests our horse training.

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