Canter Stages

Rio and I had a great jump lesson on Saturday. Even though the temp felt like 97 and the sun was blazing, we put in some really good work. I know I have talked ad nauseum about canter quality and how although it’s the key to all things, it’s such a struggle for us. As Rio progresses in his training, the way I have to approach the canter changes. It feels like every few months I am having to re-learn what it takes to ride him to his best ability.


So what stage are what at now? Let me back up and say where we were before. In the last 6 months-ish we have been really gentle with him. Almost no hand, little bit of supporting leg, predominately using body position to help balance his canter.  If you did much more then that and he’d get super stressed and anxious. Now that he is more settled into his job though, he actually can get a bit lazy. Unlike some warmbloods, Rio has never been a ‘kick’ ride. You don’t need much leg, pretty much ever.

I have been practicing the soft ride so much, but now he is needing a bit more from me to get the best out of him.  I  actually have to wake him up a bit now! I can also shape his canter more without him getting stressed out about it by taking more feel for a feel steps while simultaneously using more leg,  therefore insisting on more jump in his step without letting the stride get longer. But, then I immediately have to be soft again and let the canter flow freely.

We also used to land off of jumps and immediately canter off more forward before attempting to put the canter back together again. Now, I can land after a jump and almost immediately think about lightly re-balancing. I think this is because he is carrying a better canter overall, so we don’t have to send him as forward since he is no longer landing in an unorganized heap.

I was also super excited because we got all of our lead changes Saturday and they are actually, maybe, possibly, starting to feel… dare I say it? Kind of easy! Fingers crossed that this trend continues. They aren’t perfect (usually a single stride late behind) but this isn’t dressage and you only lose one point per stride late behind. Pretty sure 1 or 2 lost points isn’t going to be making it or breaking it for me in most classes. These days I’m happy if we get our changes at all, keep the rails up, and only chip one jump LOL.

Pats for the best boy

Here is a little video edit of the ride! Also huge thanks to Liana for all the amazing photos!



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    1. Hello! It’s an insecticide tag usually attached to cow ears. They put them in some if the horses tail’s at my barn to help with bugs during overnight turnout 😊

  1. Did Rio have his changes when you first bought him, or did you work with your trainer to teach him? I’m currently working on teaching them to my horse with the help of my trainer, but it sure seems like a long process, lol!

    1. Rio barely knew correct leads when I got him (he was very lightly started due to his size and had just turned 5). Definitely no lead changes! It can for sure be a long process. I think Rio would have learned faster but he had some training pauses due to injuries and I moved barns a few times. Lead changes can’t be rushed unfortunately. Best of luck teaching your guy!

  2. That balance and education helps so much!! When we bought Frankie they told us they weren’t sure if he had his changes, and we didn’t ask him for a good long time. After helping him understand his body better and conditioning him up, they started showing up on their own. Sometimes these big guys just need time to figure out where all their big long body parts are!

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