Walk to Canter


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Need help in getting horse to go from walk to canter. Have first horse show in two weeks. Am showing in the novice amateur in AQHA Western Pleasure. Horse is finished show horse with ROM in Open Western Pleasure. Works great with trainer but I can't seem to go from a walk to a canter without trotting. Trainer is trying to help...I just seem to have a mental block. NEED HELP FAST!!!! Just something to get me thru the 6 day show without making a complete fool of myself. Have been taking lessons for two months now and will continue after this show!!!! PLEASE HELP ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!! Thank you!


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Jul 24, 1999
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hi terri , well i was taught to put more pressure against my horses with my out side leg and urge him to go into canter with my body movement , it works for me , just kick on and urge your horse on with more pressure from the outside leg than the inside , "lol" i know what i mean , i hope i have been of some use to you , hope your show goes well and good luck


New Member
Aug 24, 1999
Plymouth, England
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Hi there
I know this may be to late to help you in your show, but this is how I train my horses to move off into canter from walk (and it improves canter transitions in general). Start by walking a square, bending at the corners, so that your square is in the middle of the school or field and is about 20 metres on each side. Keeping the rhythm of the walk, introduce a turn on the haunches at each corner. When this pattern is flowing smoothly, and the rhythm is consistent and the horse turning deeply on his quarters, at your next corner, immediately after your turn, ask for the canter. You'll find the horse has his quarters engaged, and is already thinking forward as he's about to move off to the next corner. Walk to canter demands that the horse is stepping through from behind and has lots of energy in his quarters, and the turn on the haunches helps that. Try it and see if your transitions improve!


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Aug 27, 1999
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My horse responds to a very definite outside leg aid, behind the girth but short and sharp rather than continuous pressure. Just keep practicising it will come eventually. Try to do lots of transistions both up and down through the slower paces to ensure the horse is really listening to you.

Good luck in your show



New Member
May 22, 1999
Walk to canter? I love that! =) But it does take a lot of work at first. What I do is 'hold' the horse with my reins. Translated, roughly means taking a little more even contact up but keeping the impulsion going with my legs. Remember that you *can't* get a horse to canter from a dead walk (meaning your horse is almost in comatose as he drags himself along the ground moving 1 meter a minute). Holding your horse and keeping the impulsion going gets him ready for a change. Once you feel ready, give him a clear swift squeeze with your outside leg while keeping your inside leg still at the girth. Let up the contact a little when you're in the canter, stop holding your horse with the reins so you don't catch him in the mouth. That's what works with me, LMK on how you're walk-canter is going!


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Dec 28, 1999
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Well, if your horse if a finished show horse he should know how to do walk canter transitions, so you might try a snap of a crop to wake him up. It helps with my 'you want me to go faster than a walk?' gelding to wake up and listen. Usually it only takes one snap to get him to wake up and then he does great the rest of the time. Depending on how sensitive your horse is, you may only have to let him know you have the crop with a light tap (My filly would apsolootly die if you did more than tap her with anything, even your hand) or you might really need to snap him with it (my gelding doesn't even flinch unless you put a little bit of umph behing the thret) I don't mean beat your horse with it, just one snap should do it however light or strong you need it to reinforce your leg, seat and other comands. I don't like using the crop unless it's necicary, and I know western riders don't ride with them in the ring so you might want to try flicking him witht he rains insted, you can talk to your trainer and see what he says


New Member
Mar 28, 1999
Summer's reply is good advice Terri. I'm afraid that the rest of you are being taught to do waaaaaaay too much, with the risk of unbalancing the horse. I am having this problem at the moment with my working pupil Sarah, a very experienced young showjumper and eventer, but whose flat work had been typically taught to be rough and overdoing everything.She's getting better, riding the schoolmasters, but still, on the younger horses is trying to do too much, and stopping the flow.

The body movement that Perry describes would prevent my horses from performing it! Riders are so surprised when they get on the schoolmasters here, and almost just have to think walk to canter and it happens. When they try to do too much, the horse just says 'hey, fella, what am I supposed to think that means!'. We'll give Perry the chance to experience this when he comes down on the NR get together. (I haven't met Perry yet, but can imagine that by the enthusiasm that shines out of his posts, we'll have a camera handy to record the ear to ear grin!).

The outside leg should not be the predominant leg, for reasons explained in the next paragraph- it should merely brush back without any real pressure to indicate to the horse that it is the outside hind that you want him to move off with, so that he will be on the correct inside canter lead. It is the inside leg used in the normal position, with the toe level with the girth, that should be used with firmer pressure, to engage the inside hindleg and lift and lighten the inside shoulder to allow the horse to jump up into canter, not fall on his forehand and start to 'run' in trot.

If you ride a horse trained in lateral work as all of mine are, the outside leg used with pressure behind the girth means to move the quarters over, therefore, using the outside leg with pressure on a trained horse will cause a crooked canter strike off with the quarters coming in. The sooner the horse is trained to strike off to the inside leg, the sooner you will get good walk to canter transitions.

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