By nature, the canter is the gait in which the horse runs away from danger. In dressage, the canter is used to show controlled exercises such as the canter change.
Canter is a three beat gait but it also has a moment in which all 4 legs of the horse are in the air. There is a left- and a right-canter. In the right canter, the right pair of legs comes further forward while in the left canter, the left pair of legs comes more forward.
If you have never ridden a canter change before, make sure you find an experienced horse to learn it on. The canter change is a normal canter jump and feels so, if done right. After mastering this feeling, you can teach it to your own horse.
Your horse is ready to learn the canter change when it is trained into straightness and can bend equally on both sides.
It is important for the rider to place the position of the shoulders and hips precisely in canter. Therefore, the exercises shoulder-in and hindquarter-in have to be understood very well by the horse before the canter change can be practiced.
The following aids are given simultaneously during the flight-moment:
The new inside leg is placed on the girth.
The new inside rein and the new inside leg help maintain the new bending around the inner seat bone and inside leg of the rider.
The new outside leg is placed behind the girth and moves the outside hind leg under the point of weight (like in hindquarter-in).
The rider looks over the new inside shoulder forward.
Do not forget to reward and stop when the change happens for the first time, to print the positive experience in the horse’s mind.
Teaching the exercise to the horse
It is recommended to practice the change in the same place of the arena, until the change is confirmed. This fixed place should be on a straight line and not in a corner of the arena. Afterwards, you can practice the change in other places in the arena.