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If your confidence abandons you when it comes to cantering your horse, don’t fear! You’re not alone and your feelings are completely normal. I was leery of cantering when I first started riding horses, too. At some point, all equestrians experience the unsettling feeling of riding the canter. Getting comfortable and confident riding your horse’s three-beat gait takes practice. You can master the canter by setting yourself up for success.
Tip #1: Be sure your equipment fits you correctly.
The first step to becoming confident on a horse— no matter if you’re at the standstill or the canter—is to make sure your equipment is properly fitted to you. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make at clinics is riding in too big or too small of a saddle and not having their stirrups adjusted correctly.
The canter is a very different feeling gait than the walk or the trot. When you first ask a horse to canter, it almost feels as if you’re being catapulted up over the horse’s neck. I remember that feeling well! A good-fitting saddle will help you feel secure and safe on your horse’s back, whereas a too-large saddle will make it feel like you’re being thrown all over the place. A too-small saddle will make you feel as if you’re going to plop right on the horse’s neck.
When your saddle is fitted correctly, there should be a little bit of a gap in the seat behind you and in front of you. You’ll know if the saddle is too small because when you try to sit back deep to stop the horse, there will be nothing there to sink down into if you’re already sitting back on the cantle of the saddle. If you’re jammed in too tight, it’s too easy to come out of the saddle because when you bounce around or get knocked off balance, the only place to go is out. The saddle should not be so big that you’re swimming in it either.
Looking to build your confidence at the canter? Check out the No Worries Club video series “Cantering With Confidence.” I help a horsewoman boost her confidence in the saddle and go from being too afraid to canter to loping on a loose rein. Watch the series by logging on to the No Worries Club or the Downunder Horsemanship app. The videos can be found under the NWC Videos category.