The trot-canter transition is one of the most difficult transitions for horse and rider as the horse must go from a 2 beat trot rhythm into a 3 beat canter gait. Here are some of the most common mistakes riders make in the trot-canter transition.
1. Not enough energy in the trot - often riders will ask the horse to canter from a slow trot that does not have enough energy. While an advanced horse that understands collection may pick up the canter from a slow trot, a green horse will have trouble and may come above the bit in the transition or just trot faster instead of picking up the canter. The more forward energy in the trot, the easier it is to get into the canter!
2. Incorrect rider position - Often riders that have generally good positions at the trot, completely loose their position when it comes time for the canter. Because the canter can be exciting and terrifying, riders often lean forward, curl up their leg, and pull back on the reins when their horse canters. It is important to maintain the correct position and proper alignment so the rider can properly go with the motion of the horse and not frighten the horse by leaning forward and pulling!
3. Too much outside leg, not enough inside leg - We all know that the cue for the canter is the outside leg back behind the girth. The inside leg also plays an important role in giving the impulsion for the canter. The outside leg indicates the lead and the inside leg gives the impulsion for the canter. Both legs are important to lift the horse into the canter.
4. Not keeping the horse organized - it is essential to keep the horse in the same frame, on the same line of travel and relaxed during the transition into canter. Often horses will put their head up, fall in or fall out, or become tense and nervous during the transition. The rider’s job is to help the horse stay organized.
Here is a great exercise to help your horse pick up the canter: Go up the 1/4 line and leg-yield to the rail off the inside leg When you reach the rail, ask the horse to canter and immediately go onto a 20 meter circle This exercise will help to get the horse prepared to canter by getting the horse off of the inside leg and into the outside rein. Be sure to keep the forward impulsion in the trot leg-yield to have enough energy for the canter transition at the end!
Amelia Newcomb is a top Grand Prix rider and trainer who is passionate about educating Dressage enthusiasts around the world. Through her videos, blogs, social media posts, and e-mails, Amelia hopes to help teach correct dressage training and good horsemanship to as many people as possible!