How to Canter a Figure Eight

A figure eight canter is a great exercise for teaching a horse to change legs and respond to cues. If you put in the time to train yourself and your horse, you can try out the figure eight at horse shows as well.


  1. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 1
    Put out cone markers (optional). Imagine a figure eight shape in your practice area. Position two markers, one on either end of the figure eight. This is a useful guide for riders or horses who haven't yet learned this exercise.
  2. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 2
    Start in the center of an open area. At a show, you would start your figure eight in the center of the arena. This will be the center of the eight shape as well, where the two circles touch. Make sure you have plenty of room ahead and behind you.
  3. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 3
    Canter forward and left. Neck rein to the right to cue the horse to canter. Let the left rein become slightly slack, so the horse can stretch his neck to begin cantering. Move forward and to the left, in a straight line.
    • To cue the horse to start moving or to turn, tap with your heel. Which side you use for these cues depends on how the horse was trained.
    • If your horse knows its cues well, you may be able to just use your foot and not pull the reins.
  4. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 4
    Curve right and around. After a short distance, cue your horse to turn to the right. Finish the first curve of the eight in a smooth turn. You should end up approaching your center point again, from the opposite side.
    • If you are using markers, circle around one of them.
  5. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 5
    Switch to the other leg as you pass through the center. Keep cantering through the center without stopping. Neck rein to the left to cue the horse to canter on the left leg instead of the right.
    • Do not stop at this point, as the main purpose of the exercise is to get the horse to respond to these cues quickly. Your horse may be stressed at first, but steady practice will improve her behavior.
  6. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 6
    Complete the second half of the eight. You're now on the second side of the eight shape. After cantering straight ahead for a short distance, turn left in a steady circle. As before, you should turn until you face your starting point again, from the opposite side.
    • If using markers, circle around the second one during this motion.
  7. Image titled Canter a Figure Eight Step 7
    Repeat if desired. If you continue on, switch legs again when you pass through the center. Your horse may get tired or aggressive after a couple changes, so be alert for rearing or violent cantering.


  • This exercise helps make the horse push forward, pay more attention to you cues, and stay flexible.
  • If the horse is not receptive at all to your cues, you may use contact spurs. Do this only if you are an experienced rider and be very gentle with your legs.
  • This is a good exercise not only for shows, but to warm up before any riding lesson, from dressage to jumping.


  • Even a horse that knows its cues may get tired and aggressive. Be prepared to deal with rearing and other aggressive behaviors.

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Categories: Horse Training