Introducing canter work with green horse

First canters with Cooper – a bit like riding an armored combat tank.  A frightened-very straight-and-then-suddenly-stopping type of a combat tank.

He was a bit intense…  To make it easier, did some lunging with voice transitions, then used them under saddle.

First, the canter was unbalanced.  Scrambling.  He couldn’t even keep one full 20 m circle at the canter.  It took a few full laps in trot to come back into it again.

Showed you this already:

cooper canter 2

We stayed that way for a while, then getting to where he could willingly hop into the canter at various places in the arena, as well as canter two full circles.  Although pretty unbalanced.

Next he could canter a circle to the right, trot across the diagonal and a full lap of trot to the left on the new circle there before coming into left lead canter.  A figure 8 “trot half halt”.

We stayed here for weeks, since he’d get worked up very easily and it was hard for him.  Also didn’t drill this very often at all.  Our work is pretty short.

Eventually we got to where the “rebalancing trot part” could be shortened – left lead canter immediately after the trot on the diagonal.  SO proud of him!

 If this wasn’t part of The Lone Riders Club, there’d be a picture showing some improvement here.  All you get is my little horse statue.


Should be trying the serpentine sometimes now.  The arena is really too short to accommodate a comfortable 3 loop canter serpentine at this stage.  We try a bit.

Starting out with trotting the serpentine to set him up.
Then a 20 m trot circle at the short end (which would be A if this was a real arena and not a make-believe dust bowl), picking up the canter at A and riding it through the first serpentine loop.
Trotting when straightening at the centerline, then changing leads into the next loop.

Not scrambling is the goal.
(We scramble haha.)

This is super challenging for him, he has to bend, balance, and stay level-headed, and not rush away in the trot part.  And 3 loops in this short little thing is too much.  But so much fun that we’ve made it to here to sometimes try!

If we master this, he’s ready for half halts within the canter.  Let you know how it goes!  Hmm, could be next year.

As always, I’d love to hear your own story of teaching green horses to canter.

8 thoughts on “Introducing canter work with green horse

  1. You should of seen jory’s first cantering lessons. Or rather lack there of. Lol. The laziest horse ever! Once I figured out his go button then he never wanted to pick up his correct lead. I think the best exercise is the figure eight. Big circles for green horses with a simple change inthe middle. First at trot then at walk.


  2. My first canter on Chrome was an accident. 😀 We were trotting out in the pasture and headed back toward the gait, then all of a sudden he was just smoothly cantering along. It was awesome. We still can’t do circles. Without an arena it’s just impossible to practice it. We just canter in straight lines up and down the driveway or in the pasture a bit. 🙂


    1. Just a side bar on this – a lot, actually more, can be practiced with just the transition into canter. You could give it a shot in pasture. Practice the transition into canter, until he feels as if he really jumps smoothly into it, coming back to trot almost right away.
      It can make a huge difference – I did it some with Cooper since he’d go half stir crazy if I let him canter down, say, for the entire long side.


      1. I never really thought of that! Thank you! I will definitely give it a try. His transition into the canter is actually really smooth but there is definitely no jump so I think it’s probably downhill or he’s falling into it. We really need lessons. It’s been so long since I’ve ridden regularly and when I have ridden it’s a green horse or western trail horses. My dressage skills are very rusty! Thanks for the idea!!!


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