How to sit a bumpy canter


New Member
Oct 2, 2004
Lisle, IL
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At the barn where I ride there are about 12 lesson horses. They are all in many ways very different. Like for example their canter. Some have a super smooth canter while others are so rocky I can barely even stay on. Well this is posing a problem for me since a couple of the horses with a bumpy canter I want to ride for different reasons but I keep on avoiding them and try not to get them because it's so hard to sit their canter! For one of the horses my instructor told me that if "I get collected" the canter can get smooth, but I was not able to do that last lesson. For the other horse she told me to just try to sit it as best as I could but I kept on stopping the horse cause I thought I was going to fall off! So here are my two questions:

1. How can someone sit a really bumpy canter and keep their butt in the saddle?

2. Anyone have advice on how to get a horse "collected"?

I know these might be hard questions to answer online but i will appreciate any advice :)

Em 1

Well-Known Member
Aug 18, 2001
1. How can someone sit a really bumpy canter and keep their butt in the saddle?

Easier said than done! As you know, when you canter you have to move with the rocking movement of each stride. In my experience a bumpy canter can be the result of one of two things. If the horse is rushing each 'rocking cycle' is very short and it can end up feeling like you are in a tumble dryer wobbling all over the place! Alternatively, the horse could have a very elevating stride which means there is a lot of 'upwards' movement which is also hard to deal with.

You need to work at absorbing the movement with your lower back and through the hips. If I am riding one of the very large striding horses I try to loosen my back before I get on board. You can also loosen your hips by holding each leg in turn out to the side for a few seconds once you are mounted. This can help to stretch the ligaments and allow your leg to hang longer making you more stable. You also need to breathe! I find I take a deep breath and then plunge into canter. When I sit tall, relax and breathe everything gets easier.

2. Anyone have advice on how to get a horse "collected"?

The are lots of other people on here who can give more technical advice but basically you need to half halt (sometimes quite firmly), sit tall (don't lean back) and keep your leg on. Give clear squeezes on the outside rein to stay 'slow down' but keep your legs on to stop the horse dropping to trot. That way you rev up the engine but keep the handbrake nearly all the way on - that way all the power goes into make a steadier, smooth stride rather than a run away choppy bounce!

Good luck, I hope this has helped a little bit!


Number of Falls - 8
I learnt to ride on the bumpiest Stock Horse known to man! Here's a couple things I learnt to stay with him & not be bounced out....

1) Don't lean forward! I was always leaning forward, sometimes just a fraction, because I thought it might feel smoother. Wrong!! This completely locks up your mid section, and you will never absorb the movement with your hips.

Infact, I would suggest leaning back alittle than you think you normally do - it smoothed out Cody in a huge way & I could actually move with him much better.

2) "Its all in the hips" - I know that's usually said about sitting trot, but is well applied to bouncey canters! As part of your learning to ride, you have to learn to adapt to many different horses (hey! they have to adapt to many different riders!), so you should be practicing on the bouncy ones. Often the circles you make with your hips (the belly-dance motion) will have to be made with smaller or faster movement.

3) Heel down, toes up! Your leg position is vital to keeping you stable on a bouncy horse. The moment your legs swing back underneath you, you are probably pinching with your knees, and with a bouncy canter, you'll be unseated pretty quickly.

4) practice. Think about the replies you get here, and maybe have a few lessons where your objective is to canter nicely on the horse for just a few strides.

When you have done it once on a bouncy horse, you'll know what to look for in terms of position & movement for the next time.

Good luck!


New Member
Nov 18, 2004
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My horse has the most mad bouncy canter and I have a bad back! I have now learnt to stand in canter - much easier on the back - his and mine!

I did think it was all my rubbish technique but I recently rode my sons pony and suddenly it felt like cantering in an armchair. After that I felt a lot less guilty for my cop out standing when on my horse.

Incidently I have also had some great gallops. Harry is an ex-racer and I do think that me standing might bring back some happy memories for the old man - he certainly shows he can still shift!

Grace O'Malley

Sweetpea Bulge, Hobbiton
Apr 5, 2004
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Has your instructor had you working on collection at the trot? If you can get the horse into a collected trot, sit, and then ask for canter, then you're ahead at the start. But it's not just you--the horse has to have the knowledge and fitness to be able to do this. I've ridden many lesson horses who don't, and then it's always a struggle when you're trying to learn :rolleyes:

Other than that, ditto what others have said.

Good luck!

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