2 Exercises To Improve Your Canter Departs

In last week’s Facebook Live Event we introduced two exercises from the Arena GPS series (www.equestrian-mobile-guides.com) that help to prepare and improve the canter depart. If you want to watch the entire discussion without missing any of the details you can watch the recording on the Ritter Dressage Facebook page.

Both exercises are most effective when you ride trot - canter transitions. They are simple enough that you can ride them with a 1st or 2nd Level horse.



1. Exercise 1:

K - X Leg yield on the diagonal to the right. X - E half volte left. Between X and E ask for the canter. Usually it is best to ride new exercises at the walk first to show the horse the work space and the new task. This way, the rider also has the opportunity to find out if the exercise is easy or difficult for the horse, or if he finds a specific part of the exercise especially challenging. You can then think of a strategy for your seat and aids in order to guide the horse through it as best you can. Once the exercise flows well at the walk, you can ride it at the trot. During the leg yield on the diagonal from K to X the horse is bent against the direction of travel. The left hind leg is brought more under the body and the weight is transferred to the right hind leg. I would sit with my own weight in the direction of travel to be able to flex the outside hind leg more effectively with the weight of the horse and rider. The deeper the flexion of the outside hind leg, the more uphill the horse will canter. The weight distribution towards the right side of the body can be enhanced through a stirrup stepping sequence of right front - right rear - right rear, i.e. you apply a slight pressure with your toes into the right stirrup when the right front leg is on the ground, then again during the next two strides when the right hind leg is on the ground. The stepping can be supported by half halts on one of the reins. You can find a detailed discussion of stirrup stepping as a weight aid in my book “Dressage Principles Based On Biomechanics”. You can ride the leg yield on a shallower diagonal, arriving on the center line sometime after X, which makes the exercise easier for the horse without compromising its effectiveness. As soon as the leg yield ends, you apply two half halts to the outside hind leg and ask for the canter depart. The sidestepping as well as the half halts flex the outside hind leg, creating a posture in which it is easy for the horse to transition into the canter. Since the distance between X and E is only 10m, the horse will be motivated to canter uphill because in a flat, fastdownhill canter he wouldn’t be able to make the turn in the available space. During the walk and trot stage of the exercise (before adding the canter depart) you could add a counter shoulder-in or haunches-in along the long side after E, as you can see in the graphic. This way, both hind legs are engaged in the same exercise. This exercise is suitable also for introducing the horse to the haunches-in with the bend in the direction of travel.

K - X Leg yield on the diagonal to the right.

X - E half volte left.

Between X and E ask for the canter.

Usually it is best to ride new exercises at the walk first to show the horse the work space and the new task. This way, the rider also has the opportunity to find out if the exercise is easy or difficult for the horse, or if he finds a specific part of the exercise especially challenging. You can then think of a strategy for your seat and aids in order to guide the horse through it as best you can.

Once the exercise flows well at the walk, you can ride it at the trot. During the leg yield on the diagonal from K to X the horse is bent against the direction of travel. The left hind leg is brought more under the body and the weight is transferred to the right hind leg. I would sit with my own weight in the direction of travel to be able to flex the outside hind leg more effectively with the weight of the horse and rider. The deeper the flexion of the outside hind leg, the more uphill the horse will canter. The weight distribution towards the right side of the body can be enhanced through a stirrup stepping sequence of right front - right rear - right rear, i.e. you apply a slight pressure with your toes into the right stirrup when the right front leg is on the ground, then again during the next two strides when the right hind leg is on the ground. The stepping can be supported by half halts on one of the reins. You can find a detailed discussion of stirrup stepping as a weight aid in my book “Dressage Principles Based On Biomechanics”. You can ride the leg yield on a shallower diagonal, arriving on the center line sometime after X, which makes the exercise easier for the horse without compromising its effectiveness.

As soon as the leg yield ends, you apply two half halts to the outside hind leg and ask for the canter depart. The sidestepping as well as the half halts flex the outside hind leg, creating a posture in which it is easy for the horse to transition into the canter. Since the distance between X and E is only 10m, the horse will be motivated to canter uphill because in a flat, fastdownhill canter he wouldn’t be able to make the turn in the available space.

During the walk and trot stage of the exercise (before adding the canter depart) you could add a counter shoulder-in or haunches-in along the long side after E, as you can see in the graphic. This way, both hind legs are engaged in the same exercise. This exercise is suitable also for introducing the horse to the haunches-in with the bend in the direction of travel.

2. Exercise 2:

20m circle left rein AtX 10m volte left After the volte at X, enlarge 2 steps from the right leg 20m circle right rein 2 half halts into the left hind leg Canter depart You can ride this exercise at the walk at first as well to show the horse the work space and to familiarize him with the exercise. Then I would ride it a few times at the trot. It starts with a 20m circle at A or C. At X, ride a 10m volte in the same direction. This volte begins and ends at X. Afterwards change direction to the 20m circle in the other direction. Pay close attention to the change of direction from the volte left to the circle right. The horse’s body should be parallel with the short side at X. At the end of the volte, enlarge the circle for two strides (1st test of the inside hind leg) from the inside leg of the NEW circle. If you begin on the left rein, the horse has to yield to your right leg. This transfers the weight onto the left hind leg, which becomes the new outside hind leg, and it facilitates the change of bend. After the enlarging, you apply two half halts with the outside rein into the outside hind leg (1st test of the outside hind leg) in order to flex it even more. Now the horse should be in a good position for a canter depart. After cantering for most of the circle transition down to the trot and repeat the exercise in the other direction. Later on you can use the same exercise to teach the horse the flying changes under saddle. There you ride the circle and the volte in the canter. At the end of the volte send the horse from the old outside aids to the new outside aids and ask the haunches to yield to the inside at the beginning of the new circle. This makes the old canter lead very uncomfortable while making the new lead very appealing to the horse. At the moment where the rider asks for the haunches-in position on the new circle the horse will change leads.

20m circle left rein

AtX 10m volte left

After the volte at X, enlarge 2 steps from the right leg

20m circle right rein

2 half halts into the left hind leg

Canter depart


You can ride this exercise at the walk at first as well to show the horse the work space and to familiarize him with the exercise. Then I would ride it a few times at the trot.

It starts with a 20m circle at A or C. At X, ride a 10m volte in the same direction. This volte begins and ends at X. Afterwards change direction to the 20m circle in the other direction. Pay close attention to the change of direction from the volte left to the circle right. The horse’s body should be parallel with the short side at X. At the end of the volte, enlarge the circle for two strides (1st test of the inside hind leg) from the inside leg of the NEW circle. If you begin on the left rein, the horse has to yield to your right leg. This transfers the weight onto the left hind leg, which becomes the new outside hind leg, and it facilitates the change of bend. After the enlarging, you apply two half halts with the outside rein into the outside hind leg (1st test of the outside hind leg) in order to flex it even more. Now the horse should be in a good position for a canter depart.

After cantering for most of the circle transition down to the trot and repeat the exercise in the other direction.

Later on you can use the same exercise to teach the horse the flying changes under saddle. There you ride the circle and the volte in the canter. At the end of the volte send the horse from the old outside aids to the new outside aids and ask the haunches to yield to the inside at the beginning of the new circle. This makes the old canter lead very uncomfortable while making the new lead very appealing to the horse. At the moment where the rider asks for the haunches-in position on the new circle the horse will change leads.

 

For a more detailed explanation you can watch the recording of the Facebook Live event here:


How to improve your canter transitions:

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