How to Ride a Good Walk to Canter
You can ride a decent trot to canter transition. Now you want to ride a direct transition from walk to canter, without going through trot.
How do you achieve this in style?
Read on to find out how.
Biomechanics of walk to canter transition
Although you will be missing out an intermediate pace, once your horse understands what you are asking, he will actually find walk to canter easier than trot to canter.
This is because it is simpler for him to change his sequence of legs from walk to canter than from trot to canter.
Sequence of legs
In walk, a 4-beat gait, all four legs move individually.
In trot, the legs move in two diagonal pairs which are strongly linked neuro-muscularly.
To change from trot to canter, the linkage of one of these diagonal pairs must be broken, whereas from walk, there is no such physical complication.
Aids for walk to canter
Ensure the walk is energized, and he is listening to you.
You may need to give him a couple of preparatory nudges with your legs to activate and warn him that you are about to ask him to make a transition.
If he is tense, you may simply need to sit quietly and possibly vibrate the rein to make a small half-halt in warning.
When his walk feels ready, slide your outside leg back along his side and give a downward/forward push with your inside seat bone – you may need to give him an aid with your inside leg at the girth if he is slow to react, but this should not be essential.
Maintain your rein contact, or even feel as if it is a little stronger than normal in the moment of the transition – this is to stop him from running forward at a faster walk or breaking into trot.
The timing of your aids
There is only ONE moment in the walk sequence when your horse can change from walk to canter on the desired inside lead – this is as his outside front hoof is on the ground, which is just as the inside hind is lifted into the air – this is when you can change the outside hind leg action from being the next step of walk to become the first step of canter.
The simplest way to tell this is to remember it is exactly the same as checking for the correct diagonal in trot – as the outside shoulder comes back towards you.
Until you learn to feel this moment (with practice you will know the moment by feel) start by looking down at the outside shoulder and say, “Now, now, now…” each time the shoulder moves back towards you.
Then look up but keep saying “Now…” at the same speed.
Make your aid for canter exactly as you say “Now.”
If your horse has responded without delay, you will now be in canter on the correct lead.
If he delayed, he may well be on the wrong lead and you should come back to walk and re-energize him so he goes more quickly off your aid next time.
Make sure you give the aid in the correct moment – if you don’t and he gets the wrong lead, don’t punish him – it was your fault, not his.
Getting used to the timing for the aid will take practice, but is well worth the effort as you can then guarantee a clean and correct canter depart every time.
Riding a smart walk to canter transition involves having an energized walk, knowledge of the correct aids, and asking for canter in the appropriate moment.
With practice, it will come with ease.
- 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
- How to Ride Counter Canter