A Leading Question


Riding Level 3: Canter Leads

At level 2 we asked you to be able to canter in both directions ‘without emphasis on position or lead.’ At level 3 you will need to:

6. Canter circles with correct leads

First, go and review these Level 2 posts on the Canter, and Identifying Canter Leads.

Canter depart. The outside hind leg is pushing off.
Canter depart. The outside hind leg is pushing off.

In the Level 3 test you will be asked to demonstrate the canter in both directions, and we will expect your horse to be cantering on the correct (inside) lead.  If your horse picks up the incorrect lead we want you to immediately make the transition back to trot and ask again for the correct lead.  If you manage this within a stride or two you won’t lose any marks.  If it takes half the arena you can expect to lose a mark or two, and if you blithely continue to canter on the incorrect lead you won’t pass that section of the test.

2nd beat of the canter. Inside hind & outside fore are on ground. Horse is reaching foreward with inside (leading) foreleg.
2nd beat of the canter. Inside hind & outside fore are on the ground. Horse is reaching foreward with the inside (leading) foreleg.

Of course it’s easier if your horse picks up the correct canter lead on the first request, so here are some tips to make your canter transitions smoother, more prompt, and correct.

  • Half-halt.  Everything goes better with a half-halt, and canter transitions are no exception. Before you apply your canter cues give a half-halt to balance your horse and supple her to the inside.  Balancing her gets her hind end more underneath her body for a clean depart, and suppling to the inside reinforces the direction of travel, making her more likely to pick up the correct lead.

    Moment of suspension. The outside fore will hit the ground next.
    Moment of suspension. The outside fore will hit the ground next.
  • Be clear in your cues.  Sit firmly, apply definite pressure at the girth with the inside leg, and clearly and crisply slide your outside leg 4-6 inches back.  Your inside leg reinforces the correct bend (to the inside) and your outside leg cues the horse to strike off with the outside hind, which she needs to do if she is to lead with the inside foreleg.
  • Use your corners.  The easiest place to get a correct lead is in the corner of the arena.  Corners naturally make your horse bend and balance as above, even if your half-halt communication with the horse is still a work in progress.  Usually in a test situation at this level we will ask you to pick up your canter between two letters that bracket a corner, eg. on the right rein between F and A.  That way you can use the corner between F and A.  If you miss your transition or get the wrong lead you have the corner between A and K to correct it right away.
  • Circle.  If you are cantering as a group and are not near a corner, throw in a 15 or 20 metre circle and develop your canter on the circle.  Not only does this improve ring spacing and makes sure you don’t run into the horse in front of you, the bend of the circle encourages the correct lead.
  • Leg yield.  Although leg-yielding is not part of the examination curriculum till higher levels, we often teach leg-yields in level 3 classes.  If you know how to leg-yield plan your track to start slightly away from the rail and leg-yield toward it as you approach the corner.  The lateral movement and bend of the leg-yield will predispose your horse to a smooth and correct canter transition.
  • Shoulder-in.  If you already know shoulder-in, this is a more subtle way than leg-yield to engage the horse’s hind end and establish bend for a beautiful canter depart.  However, we are not looking for exquisite yet — just functional — so if you haven’t learned shoulder-in or leg-yield, stick with the first three points above and you will achieve a perfectly acceptable canter transition on the correct lead.

Once you have achieved the canter you will want to check right away that you are on the correct lead.  With experience you will be able to feel without looking, but at first you will have to glance down to check that the inside front leg seems to be reaching farther and is the last sound of the 3-beat ‘da-da-dum’.

If your horse is on the wrong lead (and you haven’t asked for counter-canter) bring her back to trot immediately and repeat your suppling half-halt followed by your canter cues to request the correct lead.

Very occasionally a horse becomes disunited, or does a ‘cross-canter’.  This is a situation where the front legs are on one canter lead and the hind legs are on the other.  It is often the result of mis-matched canter cues, ie, the hands are saying one thing while the legs say the opposite.  It feels disorganized and awkward, and you can generally tell that something is just not right.  Sometimes the horse will self-correct with a tiny buck or hitch, but it’s better to immediately bring the horse back to trot and start over.

As with all skills, practice is the key.  When riding on your own do plenty of transitions between trot and canter to make them smooth, balanced and correct.

Two-week break in classes

Cavaliere Program classes are on a two-week hiatus until April. We will start up again with Mounted Combat Skills at the salle on April 4th, followed by Intro to Mounted Combat and the Mounted Combat Playday on the 5th. Mounted Combat and Horsemanship 3-4 will resume classes on April 12th, and new series of Riding & Horsemanship will be starting then as well.

If you feel you can’t make it through these two weeks without a horsey fix contact jennifer(at)academieduello.com to arrange private lessons with Jen or Kate.  And whatever you do, don’t miss out on VISS, the Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium happening on the final weekend in March.  This fabulous event only comes to town every two years.  There is something for everyone, from full-on three day intensive swordplay workshops, to audit passes and lectures, and of course the fabulous Saturday night Gala!  Sign up now — you won’t regret it!

Current & Upcoming Classes

If are interested in joining a series that has already started, and have permission from an instructor to do so, please contact the front desk directly at 604 568 9907 or info@academieduello.com to register.trimming

Horsemanship Level 3 or 4
Sundays 8 & 15 March, 12 Apr – 3 May 10:30 – 11:30am
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$130 + gst

Mounted Combat
Sundays 8 & 15 March, 12 & 19 April, 1:00 – 2:30pm
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$200 + gstKal wrist hook

Mounted Combat Skills
Saturdays 4 – 25 April, 3:00 – 4:30pm
Academie Duello, 412 W Hastings St, Vancouver
$120 + gst

Intro to Mounted Combat
Sunday 5 April, 10am – 1pm
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$149 + gst

Mounted Combat Playday
Sunday 5 April, 1pm – 4pm
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$15 + $15 for use of school horsestick pegging 4

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship
Sundays 12 Apr – 17 May, 10am – noon
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$300 + gst

Level 2 Riding & Horsemanship
Sundays 12 Apr – 17 May, 10am – noon
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$300 + gst

Riding Level 3+
Sundays 12 Apr – 17 May, noon – 1pm
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$200 + gst

The fields are drying nicely -- time for cross country!
The fields are drying nicely — time for cross country!

Beginner Horseback Archery
Saturday 2 May – 10am – 1pm *tentative – date may change*
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$149 +gst

Intermediate Horseback Archery
Saturday 2 May – 2pm – 5pm *tentative – date may change*
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$75 + gst

Beginner Horseback Archery
Beginner Horseback Archery

Cavaliere Assessments
Sunday 3 May, 1:30 – 4:30pm
Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
$50 for partial assessment (Horsemanship, Riding OR Mounted Combat)
$80 for full assessment (2 or 3 of the above elements)

Caretaker Position at Red Colt

The position of caretaker at our stables in Richmond is still open.  If you would like to live in the house at the farm in exchange for looking after the horses, send an email to info@redcolt.ca or call 604 304 0201.  This is an excellent opportunity to get extra time with horses and participate in the Cavaliere program.

 

Jennifer Landels Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.