A good quality canter is important if your horse is to tackle his fences accurately and safely, and to produce a more correct and athletic effort in the air. It will also be easier for you to manoeuver and control him between each jump.

Working it out

Ride 20m circles in canter to re-establish a balanced canter if the quality is lost.

  • To work on landing on the correct lead, set up two small crosspole fences at right angles to the long side of your school, and fairly close to the outside track (or fence if you are working in a field and it is safe).

    Establish a satisfactory canter, and begin riding a figure of eight over the two fences. The jump ensures that your horse achieves enough elevation tochange correctly to the new canter lead, which he will be inclined to do due to the way they are sited. This encourages him to think about balancing himself through the corner just after each fence while the edge of the school will help prevent him fromdrifting outwards.

  • When riding over single or combinations of fences placed on a straight line, you may find errors with canter leads creeping back in. This is corrected by placing a single pole on the ground at an angle of around 45ø in the first corner you reach.

    If you are on the correct lead, simply continue over it in canter, but if you find you are on the wrong leg, ask your horse to take a little pop over it while giving the appropriate aids to achieve the correct lead.

  • Riding over a single fence on a 20m circle will help you to maintain the flow, activity and regularity of the canter. Always meet the fence in exactly the same spot each time. Make sure you ride the exercise on both reins.
  • Cantering through a line of poles, and then introducing a small fence at the end of them will help you to gain a feel for maintaining a bouncy active stride on your approaches to fences, and discourage the habit of asking for speed.

    Start with three and gradually build up – although three will still give you a feel of what you are aiming for. The distance between the poles depends on the size and ability of your horse and also the height of the fence. Placing them around 9ft apart is a good starting point.

    Try to avoid encouraging your horse to get long and flat by opening out the distances too far.

  • A placing pole 9-10ft in front of a fence can help bring the horse to a more correct take-off point and encourageshim to push more strongly from both hind legs. The pole will also discourage you from asking your horse to take off too early.

    If your horse is in the habit of taking off early, make the distance between the placing pole and jump longer initially (so that he does not take off in front of it). A landing pole can help teach your horse to shorten his stride again after the fence if he tends to:

  • become fast and flat
  • fade away and fall onto his forehand

    It will encourage him to engage his hocks, lift his shoulders, and push himself forward for the next stride. Until your horse has got used to the poles, don’t make the distances too short and keep the fence fairly low so you can keep sending him forwards and straight.

    Rider checklist

  • Shorten your stirrups by two or three holes so you can remain in good balance with your horse.
  • When working with shorter stirrups your leg position tends to be a little more fixed,so it is important that your horse responds to light aids.
  • Try to keep your back flat, and check that you sit up on landing after a fence.
  • Keep your leg on while in the air so that you can ride forwards positively on landing.