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The Paces: Part 3 - The Benefits of Canter

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

In this blog we move on to look at the biomechanical effects and benefits of canter. There are also some tips for training and assessing your horse in canter.

Learn more about this in the online lecture demonstration series and in the horse movement video course Anatomy in Action.

gillian higgins horses inside out  canter, horse canter, gallop, asymmetrical gait, joint movement, back flexion

The benefits of canter

To maximise all the benefits canter has to offer your horse, he must be cantering correctly with minimum hindrance from the rider.

Whatever discipline or activity you do with your horse, canter work can:

  • Improve posture, strength, back mobility and flexibility.

  • Help mobilise and warm up anatomical structures.

  • Tones the abdominal muscles.

  • Encourage active flexion and extension both within the back and at the lumbosacral junction - making this gait excellent for mobilising the back.

More benefits.....

Canter is the only gait where the abdominal muscles on both the left and the right sides contract at the same time within the stride cycle.

This makes it great for toning the abdominal muscles. It can be likened to performing sit-ups!

If your horse has long weak abdominal muscles one of the simplest way to tone them is to do more canter work. Canter is the only gait where the horse rocks from hind-quarter to forehand.

This rocking movement is great for strengthening the thoracic sling muscles - important for supporting the forehand between the front legs.

Top Tip:

Vary the speed and stride length in both true canter and counter canter to encourage more movement and greater symmetry at the lumbosacral junction and also to give your horse a more complete abdominal workout.

Assessing the canter

Watch out for the diagonal pair of limbs in canter. They should land together exactly. If they are not landing together the horse is either disunited, showing a lateral canter or going four-time. This could be due to difficulties with balance, impulsion, range of movement or comfort. The video below gives you the opportunity to compare and assess different horses cantering, both with and without a rider, both in slow motion and at normal speed.

With the skeleton painted on the sides of the horse it helps to visualise what is happening from the biomechanical perspective.

To learn more about the points covered in this blog and more look at Posture and Performance and the online video: Movement from the Anatomical Perspective and in the horse movement video course Anatomy in Action.

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