Horse Riding, tips & tricks

It can be hard to influence the canter if the rider is still awed by the speed of it as it does require quicker thinking and action. However, the same basic principles apply as in walk and trot. To slow down the canter the pace should be checked when the horse's shoulders are lifted, as this is the moment when the rider has the most control.

Imagine asking the horse to hesitate just at this point in the stride. A common problem with less forward horses is to find that as soon as you get into canter you are back in trot. This is often caused by the rider freezing as they go into the canter. Therefore do not forget to ride actively in canter and keep applying the leg aids. As soon as you feel that lift of the shoulders, which means the horse is about to canter, use your legs again to encourage the horse forward into the canter.

There is often a lot of confusion about the canter aid as it differs from that of Walk and Trot. The leg aids for canter are: inside leg on the girth and outside leg slightly behind the girth. The uneven leg aids for canter tells the horse which leg you want him to lead on. Some horses may respond more to one leg aid than the other and so you may need to experiment with the balance to get it just right for the horse you are riding. If you do not get a transition when you want one it does not help to move your outside leg even further back, simply apply stronger aids.

A common fault with riders who are worried they may get left behind is to lose rein contact as the transition is made. If you suffer from this problem then keep your hands low so you can use the neck to keep your hands steady - but keep that contact!

The horse should lead on the inside foreleg (see picture), this is because the horse balances best on turns and circles this way, and therefore it is important to get it right. It is not unusual to find a horse who does not like to lead on one or other leg; this is because he may be unevenly muscled and/or lack suppleness. Think of this type of horse as an athlete who only ever trained by running one way round the running track and how uncomfortable it would be for him to run round the other way. You can also encourage the horse to take the correct lead by asking for canter as you ride into a corner or turn, keeping the contact especially on the outside rein and making sure you have the horse bent a little to the inside before you ask.

If you have trouble telling which leg you are on these tips should help:
  • Once you have a good canter going (cantering on the lunge can be extremely useful for this exercise) concentrate on what you feel in your hips. You should feel your inside hip being taken a little more forward with the leading foreleg. When the horse is on the wrong leg it often feels very unbalanced (although not always).
  • If you can not feel which leg is leading the cultivation of a glance downwards which does not affect your body position will help. As you feel the horse's shoulders rise glance down the horse's inside shoulder and you should see the toe of that foot flick in front of the shoulder. Watch for this flick until you know just what to look for and then you will be able to spot it with just a quick glance.
The gallop is generally performed out hacking or perhaps if are able to ride in a field, rather than in a school. This is because it requires a good amount of space to get up speed and decelerate again.

The gallop is not something that involves being "out of control" as this pace can be varied and controlled just like any other. Gallop is most often ridden in a forward seat that is very similar to jumping position. To achieve this, as when jumping, you may wish to shorten your stirrups. The aim is to hover just above the saddle supporting yourself on your knees and stirrups without pulling on the reins to hold your position.

Some horses may get exciteable and strong in the gallop and in this case it can help to bridge your reins, as this gives you a secure contact. Bridging your reins means once the rein has passed between your thumb and fore finger it goes across the horse's neck to your other hand where it is held between your thumb and forefinger. You can do this with one or both reins. Keep your hands low, resting them on the horse's neck if you wish.

In order to gallop, first go into a canter and then adopt a forward seat; then use both legs to ask the horse to gradually accelerate. When you want to stop steady the pace with your reins and sit back down into the saddle. Here are some further tips.
  • Don't try to gallop if you're control in canter is uncertain!
  • Pick a good piece of level or slightly uphill ground which is straight and gives you plenty of time to see ahead and stop if need be.
  • If you're not sure you'll be able to stop practice in an enclosed field at first.
  • Don't try and go too fast. You should feel that you could stop at any moment should you need to.
  • Remember that the riding arena is too small a space in which to practice galloping!
  • Oh and enjoy it too!
If you should find that you can't stop then keep calm, sit down in the saddle and sit up straight. If the pace is too fast or unbalanced for you to sit to reasonably then stay in forward seat. Don't get into a tug-of-war with the horse by continually pulling on the reins but try short pulls on the reins, releasing in between until the horse listens. If this has little or no effect, and there is room the easiest thing to do is to ride ever decreasing circles. As the horse circles it will slow up to balance itself and then you can stop. If circling is not possible then place one hand firmly on the neck with the crest of the neck between your thumb and fingers and pull firmly on the other rein with a long pull and brief release until you have the horse again under control. If you ride sensibly you will very rarely, if ever, be really out of control.