How to transition to canter?

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What's the right way to transition to canter? At some point, every rider will wonder how to do it properly.

Whether your horse is young or old, it's never to late to work on your transitions, which also happen to be a great way to increase your horse's strength and flexibility - if you do them correctly, of course!

Benjamin Aillaud has a few tips to help you transition to cantering the right way, calmly and easily. The most important thing is that your horse doesn't feel like this is an aggressive exercise and remains comfortable.


Reminders for transitioning to canter:

  • Inside leg lined up with the girth
  • Outside leg slightly back
  • Body weight towards the outside
  • Outer shoulder slightly back
  • Inside rein opened

Use your legs, push from the seat and open your fingers: your horse will begin cantering.


Canter/trot transitions

You should begin by working on your transitions between trotting and cantering. This is an easier way for novice riders to begin. You can go back and forth between the gaits with both hands (in both directions). Once you're able to do the exercise correctly, pull back and relax the reins.


  • Trot to canter:

Before asking your horse to canter, you must be in a comfortable trot so that the transition is smooth. Begin trotting in a large circle and make sure your horse is balanced, trotting calmly at a good rhythm. He should not be trying to go faster. If necessary, slow down a bit before transitioning to canter. It is preferable to be in a sitting trot. Put your aids into place and ask your horse to begin cantering. You should feel your horse push off from the back legs and not jerk forward.


  • Canter to trot:

After several strides in a canter, you can slow back down to a trot. Bring your shoulders back up, pull back slightly on the reins and keep your legs strong to slow your horse down. Use a vocal command if necessary. Once you've made the transition, get your horse back to a calm trot as quickly as possible.

Walk to canter transition

The aids are exactly the same as for cantering from a trot. Maintain a brisk walk because transitioning to a faster gait requires greater propulsion, and put your aids in place.

To move back from a canter to a walk, do not move your hands back or pull on the reins. Instead, you should sit up while pulling your hands up slightly, with your fingers quickly closing on the reins, opening them when your horse slows back to a walk.

If the horse transitions to a trot instead of a walk, move back into a canter. Then calmly try the transition again. If you have a difficult time, you can ask the horse to transition at the same place to help your horse anticipate the transition and do it correctly. But you should only do this a few times. Your horse needs to understand the aids associated with the transitions, which is why it is important to give clear commands.

If your horse tends to move to one side before cantering, you are taking too long to give the command to canter when your outside foot is already back. Your horse thinks that you're asking him to move his hips to the inside. If your horse always moves to one side, ask him to begin to canter to reposition its hips and use the fence to keep him straight.

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