Ohio 7 year old Tennessee Walking Horse with 2 years professional training riden in tom thumb snaffle with curb chain and english cutback or Tennessean Western Trail Saddle in ring by rider of intermediate to advanced level

 I was wondering how to teach my horse to canter?  She has never been taught to canter on cue that I know of.  She flatwalks and runwalks very nicely.  She's easy to control in hand and in the saddle. 

She was a show horse until she was four, but never taught to canter, because her training stopped right before the age TWHs are required to canter for the showring.  She was then turned out in a pasture for three years, until I bought her.  Please give me any suggestions to teach her to pick up a canter on cue.  Thanks!

From Panelist Erica

When you first start out - start by teaching the horse a verbal cue for canter on the lunge. When you cue on the lunge, give the verbal cue ONCE then make him canter. You want him to respond as quickly as possible - by giving cue after cue after cue you will only make him ignore you. Don't make him canter long - only a few strides at most. Work on up and down transitions. 

When you want him to come back down to a trot (intermediate gait) then give him the verbal cue once and then make him come down. Don't be mean, aggressive or frustrated when you ask for these things. For a horse who doesn't know the cues, it will be a big ? mark in his head. Keep working on the lunge for a while doing these transitions. When he will canter right on the verbal cue right away consistently, you are ready to move into the
saddle. Decide what you want to be your canter cue (many will use the outside leg, tapping on the 3 - 1, 2, tap, 1, 2, tap, 1, 2, tap, etc). 

When you are ready for the canter, give him his face (don't hold back on the reins) and give him the verbal cue. If he doesn't step up into the canter on the verbal cue once, use your leg/seat cue immediately to enforce the verbal cue - make him get up into the canter. When he does pick up the canter, only allow him to canter a few strides at most, then ask him back down with a verbal cue. The verbal cues you used on the ground will help him to learn quicker what your leg cues mean for what you want. Don't use your leg cues solely though until he has the verbal cue down 100% in the saddle. 

Good luck!!
-Erica Frei

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