The Right Canter

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It’s interesting how many top notch riders & trainers have a verbal slug fest

when it comes to which is more important…….

Having the “right” canter.

Or being able to see the distance.

Without fail every single person I have ever lessoned with (and there have been quite a few in my <cough> 4 decades in this sport) has had a strong opinion on this subject.

It’s just not a luke warm area like…. lettuce.

Most people don’t get overly passionate about lettuce. They’ll eat it in a taco, or on a sandwich. But they won’t get their blood pressure up over loving or hating lettuce.

But this canter vs distance concept?

Holy cow – I’ve seen otherwise calm trainers cross over into frothing-at-the-mouth-zealots when discussing this topic.



For many years I’ve had my own opinion on the subject…..

which is a complex equation relating rider skill to the size of the fence as compared to the scope of the horse.


But recently I had one of those I’m-an-idiot epiphanies and thought I might not be alone.

Here’s the rub.

What the hell is “the right canter”?

And how on earth do you know when you have it?

Shrugging woman in doubt doing shrug showing open palms.

I had a jump school where things didn’t go quite perfectly.

And while I was thinking about bits and lines and sensitive horses and all the things that seemed to be going wrong. The fearless leader steps in & says something like, “your canter sucks, you were just hammering down to everything being Bad Eventer”


He hadn’t called me out on “being Bad Eventer” in a LONG time.

A quick perusal of articles on “the right canter” gives me a lot of hocus pocus answers saying things like it’s “in the flat work”, “it’s about an uphill balance”, etc. Not that any of that is wrong, but it still doesn’t tell you how you know when you have that magical canter.

That’s when I figured out that calling it “the right canter” leads you down the wrong path.

It has more to do with rhythm & adjustability than the canter itself. You can have a beautiful uphill canter on a 12′ stride and it’s still not the right canter if you ask the horse to move up or slow down and nothing happens.

The other piece of the puzzle I only discovered when I changed horses………..and this secret of the universe is that the canter can’t change unless you want it to.

I was cantering around a tight turn to a fence, and for the first time in my life I saw that I was going to meet the fence perfectly before I had even made the turn.

That had never happened before.

It turns out that the WonderPony, as amazing as he was, never gave me the same stride to anything. He bombed around cross country like the epic XC machine he is


but our stadium demons were real.

And now I know a big piece of that puzzle was that we never had a consistent stride.

Sooooooo. Part of the elusive “right canter” is one that doesn’t change unless you ask it to, and that changes immediately, when you ask it to.


This exercise turned out to be more of the answer than I knew.

Canter pole Olympics! Turned a 5 stride line into a 10 & a 3! #Boom #Zebrasaurus #BadEventer

Posted by BadEventer on Friday, January 27, 2017


He really is a unicorn.


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