5 top tips to help you achieve the perfect showjumping canter

You might hear a lot of trainers asking their students to establish a better showjumping canter, but what exactly is this and how can you achieve it? Here, Kirstie Leightley, an international showjumper who is based with top rider Guy Williams in France, shares her top tips…

1. Transitions — It’s important for the horse to accept your hand and leg aids, practising going through your transitions at home will help develop this. Play around with it using transitions like walk to canter and canter to trot, ensuring the horse is working with you and not resisting your aid. A good exercise to help with this is to canter three strides, come down to trot for a few strides and then step back up to the canter and so on.

2. Lengthening and shortening – It’s important in the ring to be able to lengthen and shorten your stride as the courses are not always built on level distances. At home you can practice stepping up your canter work by lengthening for eight strides and then shortening for eight strides. This encourages the hind legs to come up under the body and creates the impulsion and self-carriage. When practising, you need to replicate the pace you want to achieve in the ring as most of your round will be in a medium canter not working canter.

3. Canter poles – Set up your canter poles so that they are four horse strides apart and approach these on both reins in a nice, even canter. Once you have established a good rhythm you can then adjust the number of strides you take stepping up on the three strides and closing down to five and so on, ensuring you use the same aids to encourage the same reaction you want to achieve in the ring.

4. Cavaletti – Place cavalleti (or a small fence) on a circle five horse strides apart. When doing this exercise, the horse must bend in accordance with the line you want to take which you can achieve by opening your inside hand over the fence encouraging the acceptance of your hand aid. If the horse begins to fall in, encourage the self-carriage with the outside hand and inside leg. Again, similar to the canter poles, once this is executed consistently, you can adjust the number of strides you take. This exercise also works on the rider’s own balance which is equally important to ensure horse and rider remain in good balance.

5. Flying changes – Once you and your horses are at a certain level and feel confident, flying changes are important to establish in order to maintain balance and rhythm in canter. This can be achieved by using large half turn then at the point of crossing the diagonal, squeeze with your inside leg at the girth to your outside rein, maintaining straightness in the process. Place a canter pole across the diagonal to encourage a less experienced horse to perform the same exercise.

Now you’ve got that advice in mind, take a look at these showjumping competitions available to enter where you can show off what you’ve learnt…

Saturday afternoon unaffiliated Showjumping

Date: 17 November
Venue: Beaver Hall, Leek
Details: “This unaffiliated competition is open to everyone with a dress code of smart casual. It will not start before 12.45pm and if you enter two classes, you get two more entries free.”
Enter now

British Showjumping

Date: 18 November
Venue: Badgworth Arena Equestrian Centre, Axbridge
Details: “This unaffiliated competition has classes from 85cm amateur qualifiers to 1.10m open.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated showjumping

Date: 18 November
Venue: Fenland Equestrian Centre, Wisbech
Details: “This unaffiliated competition features classes ranging between cross-poles not exceeding 40cm with a lead rein option up to 1.10m and a puissance, among other fun classes.”
Enter now

Afternoon schooling show

Date: 24 November
Venue: Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre, Cam
Details: “This is a confidence-building show where you cannot be eliminated. An experienced member of our team will be on hand to assist you with completing your round if required. If you are having problems on the showjumping course, we will adjust the jumps as required and help you ensure that you and your horse have a positive experienced and pass through the finish line. Assistance is allowed in all classes. Ideal for those who want to build confidence in themselves and or their horse/pony. A great way to ensure you leave at the end of the evening with lots of positive vibes. Heights range from cross poles with no back rails, up to 80cm.”
Enter now

Mixed British Showjumping

Date: 25 November
Venue: Leamside Equestrian, Houghton Le Spring
Details: “This affiliated junior and senior competition includes classes from clear round and 70cm up to 1.10m.”
Enter now

Nervous/novice unaffiliated showjumping

Date: 1 December
Venue: Milton Equestrian Centre, Worksop
Details: “This unaffiliated competition features a clear round plus classes from 35cm up to 95cm with junior and senior sections and Trailblazers qualifiers.”
Enter now

Visit equo.co.uk for full competition and training listings