How to Ride Medium Canter
Many riders assume that medium canter simply means a faster canter, but this is not the case.
Here’s an overview of what is required in a medium canter, together with some helpful advice on how to teach your horse to do it.
What is medium canter?
The experienced dressage rider knows that the most important gait is the canter.
It is important to be aware of the natural quality of the canter, as unlike the trot, which can be improved if necessary, the canter belongs to the horse.
The rider will train the horse to ‘change gear within the canter’, that is between working canter, medium canter, extended canter, and as the weight-bearing capacity of the hindquarters develops, the collected canter.
The medium canter is a longer version of the working canter. It covers more ground because the horse’s frame and strides lengthen.
The degree of lengthening should be more than the working canter, but less than the extended canter.
The important thing to remember is, how much quality does the canter have to start with?
To determine this, consideration should be given to the following points:
- Does the canter have the correct 3-beat sequence?
- Is there a clear and expressive moment of suspension?
- Has the training to date taught the horse to transfer his weight back onto well-flexed joints in the hindquarters and hind legs, thus enabling more height to the front leg reaction through a well-bent knee joint?
- Is the horse able to go forward from the rider’s aids with clearly lengthened strides and ground cover, and impulsion transmitted from the hindquarters to the mouth via quiet seat and rein aids?
If the rider can identify these points in the horse’s way of going, then actually riding the medium canter is merely a question of riding forwards and allowing the horse to find his rhythm and balance on an appropriately chosen line, for example, a circle line, a straight line on the long side, or eventually a diagonal line.
The judge will want to see the regularity and lightness of the strides, clearly demonstrating an uphill tendency.
The hind legs must be able to come further under the body and appear to ‘push’ the horse forwards, with the rider still in full control through light and supple seat and rein aids.
Problems in the medium canter
Losing the correct rhythm
Disruption in the natural rhythm, producing a four beat canter, can sometimes occur. This can happen if the horse has been ridden too much from the hands and reins initially.
It is a big mistake to ride the younger horses in a slower canter. Some riders do this with the intention of helping their horse find a better balance, but slowing the canter is always counter-productive and very often ends with a disruption in the gait sequence, which is very difficult and time-consuming to improve.
On the forehand
Some horses are built with straighter hind legs and longer backs than others, which will result in the starting point of the canter being more on the shoulders.
The rider has to learn to ride many transitions to carefully teach the horse to bring the weight more towards the hindquarters and away from the shoulders.
All young horses will have a certain amount of crookedness. This must not be overlooked in the training as only a supple horse can move straight, and only a straight horse can be supple.
If the horse is prompt and reactive to the rider’s forwards seat aids and responsive to the restraining rein and hand aids, riding a medium canter, even on a big moving horse, is a matter of just seating deeper in the saddle, looking up and to the line you wish to ride along, and remembering to sit down again and apply a rein aid to come back.
As your horse learns to perform the medium canter, it can be used as one of many transitions to help with suppleness, straightness, and balance, enabling you to build a good quality base from which to teach the horse the higher movements.
As with any new work, it’s important to resist the urge to practice too much medium canter, especially if the horse is young or unfit. Overdoing this exercise can easily result in the horse coming onto his forehand as he tires.
Build up the work gradually over many months; as the horse becomes stronger, he will be able to maintain the medium canter for longer periods.
- About the Horse’s Canter Gait in Dressage
- How to Keep Your Horse Engaged in the Canter
- How to Make the Horse’s Canter Stronger
- How to Ride a Good Trot-Canter Transition