The canter has three beats when at least one foot is on the ground, followed by a moment of suspension. If you are working around an arena, for example, the footfall for a standard working canter will be as follows:
- The outside hind
- The diagonal pair of inside hind and outside fore
- The inside fore followed by a moment of suspension
It is important to realize that if the horse is traveling to the right, then the canter sequence will start with the nearside (left) hindleg. If traveling to the left, then the horse strikes off with his offside (right) hindleg.
We always refer to the inside fore as being the leading leg, even though it’s not the first movement in the canter stride. This is because the inside fore leads out noticeably further than the outside fore during the stride. To purposely ride with the inside hindleg first is to ride counter-canter
Working Canter is where the horse picks up its own natural rhythm. There should be a clear three time rhythm and the canter should be active and purposeful.
Collected Canter is when the horse shortens the canter stride and increases the activity and impulsion of each stride whilst remaining on the bit and light in the riders hand.
Medium Canter is where the horse increases the pace, length of stride and activity of the canter footfalls. Three even beats should still be noticed but with more bend and energy from the horses joints. The stride is longer than the working but shorter than the extended.
Extended Canter is where the canter stride is opened out to its maximum length, there should still be a clear three beat rhythm to the stride with the hindquarters well engaged.
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