Improving The First Level Canter Lengthening.

In theory – fairly straightforward, right..?

We’re still working on it!  At least occasionally.  Just touching on it, then leaving it alone so she doesn’t get frustrated.  Full disclosure – I’ve left it mostly alone for a couple of weeks…

Insider tips are welcome of course!


This was the canter lengthening in early July.

how to lengthen the canter at first level

Really pleased with her – straight, focused, withers are up, neck reaching out, and with a bit of power! 

The movement comment was that she needed to show more.  If you’ve scribed for a judge (DO this, it’s very educational, every time!), you know that it’s a standard comment at First Level.

It’s hard to get the lenghtenings right, without creating tension, coming above the bit, or just rushing downhill.  Or not showing any difference at all.

Some schooling practice over the summer.  With various results 🙂

teaching canter lenghtening at first level

I like how she’s sitting just a little more here.  Doesn’t mean she stayed that way, since she’d just come out of the corner here, getting started right at M.

The canter lengthening, or seriously, any lengthening, is very difficult for her.  Extensions?   Forget it.


better dressage canter lengthening
This is about where she is now.  Probably the limit for how far forward she can come with the hind at this point.  I’ll take it!

12 thoughts on “Improving The First Level Canter Lengthening.

  1. I have no tips. I have the same issues though. And the consistent “needs more” comment for both trot and canter. Hard to get that out of a horse whose legs are 2 inches too short. However, on the bright side the “S” judge finally acknowledged what was really happening when I asked for canter lengthening–Charm goes “up” rather than “out”. Which proves the point my trainer always makes about how she will be marvelous at collection. My secret revenge will be to stop by the judge’s stand to confirm my name and number in some really low level class (like 1-3 for instance LOL) and just sit there piaffe-ing the whole time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There will come a time then that canter extension will be something you look forward to. You are taking is slowly and with patience and it will come better and better like that. Maybe occasionally go out for a hack and just let her rip. That might make her more enthusiastic about the extension. You would know best if this might work for her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I DO think that’s something that would work for her! To come more Out, instead of Up – and possibly slower.
      Where we are now, there’s no Outside-the-arena work available at all, just like last year. Once we move again sometime next month I’d like to give it a shot!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just takes time, as you know. Letting it be for a while can at times do the trick. Never want to pick at anything. The right time will come when it will click. She is making progress and that is what matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Work the lengthening on a large 20 m or more circle. This will help you to keep the hind leg engaged. Also try the exercise of seven strides of lengthen, seven strides collect, seven strides lengthen, etc., all while keeping her in balance (no falling on the forehand, no hollowing the back). As she gets better at it, you can ask for MORE in the lengthening and the collection, bringing the collection back to “almost walk,” and the lengthen to what Star and I call “big trot” (extension). Same thing in the canter, but of course leave out the walk part for now :-). With the canter, add a 10 m circle occasionally to rebalance her and then send her on into the lengthening. Keep those lengthenings short so that she does not fall out of balance. Your pictures look good – and yes, judges always seem to say, “needs more!” although I did once or twice get a good comment about “good job taking a risk” on the canter lengthening. Not to say it looked particularly good…but we went for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These are good tips. I was getting the “needs more” comment a lot too so I decided to really gun it at the last show, and then really try hard for a clear transition back, and my marks improved even though of course there was more tension and resistance and we were more on the forehand than I’d like…but it goes to show that the judges tend to prefer to see you really go for it on a movement like that, rather than to hold back because we don’t think we can do it like an FEI horse. Of course, we can and should be much pickier about things at home when training, but at the show–go for it! One thing that helped immensely with Clay was when I really understood how to send him forward or collect him with my seat rather than my legs or reins. That was a big ah-ha moment. I think it finally clicked for me after watching a lecture by Robert Dover that’s on Youtube where he really clearly describes what is happening in our seat and with our core and breath when we half-halt. Half-halts are everything!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This comment just popped up! Not sure why it didin’t go in correct the first time. Argh, that’s what I get for being out of town and not checking in on the blog I guess. WordPress went haywire haha.
        Anyway, I see what you’ve said below too.
        Really appreciate you chiming in on this Tonia! It’s a major part for why I’ve liked writing here so much – hearing other riders’ experiences and tips.
        I need it!! 🙂


    2. Shoot! WordPress ate my comment I think….I wrote that Horse Sage’s tips are good ones.

      I was getting the “needs more” comment at lot too at First Level. Decided at the last show that we were going to really go for it, and my scored improved even though there was more tension and resistance than I would have liked. Just goes to show that most judges would rather see you really try your heart out on a movement than to hold back because you can’t do it like an FEI horse and rider yet. Gotta show clear transitions, and to do that you have to go for it on the lengthening.

      Things started to get better in this department for Clay and me when I finally understood how to send him forward and collect him with my seat rather than my legs and reins. It clicked when I listened to a lecture by Robert Dover that’s on Youtube where he really clearly describes what should be happening in our seat/core and breath when we half-halt. Half-halts are LIFE! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes absolutely, the SEAT and not the legs and reins! It’s the biggest sticking point for us, as she doesn’t exactly let me access her back at all times, and then, it all defaults back to the legs.
        And then, well, the transition back is not really all that pretty 🙂
        I’m all with you in the department of Going For It in the lengthening, Any “partial go” is not going to be well received.
        Feels very encouraging that you’ve been able to get it together with Clay. Hope that is me in a year or so!


    3. I need to incorporate the circle! Just like you say, out, then back, then out. Especially now that we’ve moved back to the farm with the short court – the long side is really sort of short.
      “Big trot” ain’t happenin here just yet 😉
      So far, we haven’t been able to execute a full 10 m canter circle, but I’d like to see if we can test this out, to keep from getting strung out, and then open up again just like you say.
      She can be like a tricky angry bee to ride sometimes 😂😁


Comments are closed.