Improve the Quality of the Canter
I often see jumpers that have four-beat canters. This four-beat rhythm can create all kinds of problems, such as the horse’s balance being on the forehand and not having a clear enough period of suspension to be able to do a good flying change. To help a horse that has a four-beat canter:
1. Ask for a lengthening on a circle. Feel how quickly your seat moves forward and back as your horse lengthens his strides.
2. Bring him back to a working canter, but keep the same quick revolutions of your seat that you had during the lengthening. You are “marking” the rhythm and tempo of the canter with your seat.
3. Alternate lengthenings and shortenings until the rhythm and tempo of the canter are the same both in the working canter and in the lengthening.
4. Now try an exercise like counter-canter, shoulder-fore, or half-pass. In the middle of the movement, quicken the canter with your seat without letting the strides get any longer. Shoulder-fore, in particular, will lower the horse’s croup and elevate his forehand (fig. 3.7).
5. Now place a pole on the ground. Make a long approach to the pole, picking up a slow, flat, four-beat canter during the first part of the approach.
6. Without letting the strides get any longer, move your seat as if you are doing a lengthening. See if you can quicken the canter and make it three-beat from the revolutions of your seat alone.
7. When you can do this over the pole, try it over a small fence. Remember, you can also approach the fence in shoulder-fore to get the horse’s croup down and his forehand up.
An excerpt from Dressage Between the Jumps: The Secret to Improving Your Horse’s Performance Over Fences by Jane Savoie. Published by Trafalgar Square Books / HorseandRiderBooks.com. Order your copy HERE.