How to Canter from the Walk

Cantering from the Walk is a technique mainly used in higher-level dressage and equitation classes, but it's also a great technique to use to keep your horse attentive and focused.


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    Before you canter from the walk, you should be able to canter from the trot. This is vital in understanding how your horse moves in the canter as well as what pace you can expect.
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    Pick up a sitting trot around the arena, or in the field, if that's what you're more comfortable with, and trot for at least 5 paces.
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    Move your outside leg back behind the girth, but only far back enough that you feel your hip kind of "drop" and shift your inside leg like you're pushing your hip up to your elbow. If you're out in the field, start on either lead but remember to do the exercise on both leads so your horse doesn't become one-sided.
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    Squeeze your inside leg while pushing with your outside leg (a squeeze but with a SLIGHT forward motion) and encouraging with your seat. Your seat should make an almost rocking motion, from back to front, but subtly as you want to push your seat into the saddle. Ideally your seat would never leave the saddle, but it's okay if you rise up to, at most, an inch or two. This is the "canter position".
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    Keep your reins tight, don't pull, though, and keep moving your seat in time to the horse's hooves. Your seat should become natural, as you are just moving with the horse.
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    Focus on the tempo and pace of your horse's canter, so you know what to expect from the walk.
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    Bring your horse down to a trot, then change directions. If you are in a field, you can change directions or, if it's a long field, just keep going.
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    Repeat the canter on the opposite lead. Note that this is important for flexibility and to ensure your horse isn't one sided, so DO NOT forget this step.
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    Bring your horse down to a working walk. Make sure your horse's head is bobbing and they have as much energy as at the trot.
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    Move your legs into "canter position".
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    Begin moving your seat as you do in the canter. Remember that in traditional riding, Western or English, the seat is the first aid used, not your voice, hands, or legs. In riding, you shouldn't need vocal commands. They're a crutch. An occasional kissing noise or clucking for encouragement, but saying "canter" and letting your horse canter is teaching them that that word means go, regardless who it's from, and is encouraging you, the rider, to form habits of not going through the steps of speeding up or slowing down. That'll impact you if you get on a non-vocally trained horse or step into a show ring. Don't just kick your horse to make them go and pull the reins to make them stop and expect s/he to know what you want, either.
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    Repeat "canter position" with your legs in place, and be prepared for the canter. If you're unbalanced, there's a chance you could fall.
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    It's okay if you don't canter on the first try. For many school horses or inexperienced horses, they may not understand you're asking for a canter, not a trot. If this is the case, work on sideways movement (pushing your horse sideways with no forward movement away from the track, then back) then ask. This may help them understand what you're asking for better.


  • Canter leg position and seat are the same ones used for bending, like in the corner of the arena, if you do it properly. That's why instructors often tell you canter in the corner.
  • Pick a spot, like the corner or a jump post that happens to be in the arena. This will mentally prepare you for what needs to happen and when.


  • If you're not comfortable cantering, don't canter from the walk just yet.
  • Cantering from the walk has to be done just right or you'll lose your balance. Wear protective gear in case you fall.

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Categories: Riding