Why Does My Horse Not Want to Canter?

Whether you’re just starting out with horseback riding or have been doing it for years, eventually you’ll want to canter your horse. But if you’ve tried and your horse just won’t pick up the gait, don’t worry – there are a few things you can do to help get them to start to canter.

There are a few things you can do to help your horse canter. For instance, make sure you’re using the correct aids – leg, seat, and hand – to cue the canter. Also, check that your horse is properly conditioned and not too heavy.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why a horse might not be able to canter and give you some tips on how to help them get over that hurdle. So stay tuned!

Top Reasons Why Does My Horse Not Want to Canter?

There are a few reasons why your horse might not want to canter.

Not Properly Conditioned:

One possibility is that they’re just not properly conditioned yet and need more work before they’re able to pick up the canter gait.

Carrying Too Much Weight:

Another possibility is that they’re carrying too much weight – this can be due to things like excess body fat or even heavy tack.

If you think either of these might be the case, talk to your veterinarian or trainer for help in getting your horse in shape and making sure they’re not carrying too much weight.

Lack of Correct Aids:

Another possibility is that you’re not using the correct aids to cue the canter. When you ask your horse to canter, you should use your legs, seat, and hand in a specific way – if you’re not doing this correctly, your horse won’t understand what you’re asking of them.

Make sure you’re cueing with your legs by applying pressure just behind the girth, and with your seat by posting slightly out of the saddle. You should also have a light yet firm contact with the horse’s mouth – if you’re pulling too hard, they won’t be able to canter.

Other Reasons:

Finally, it’s possible that there’s something physically wrong with your horse that’s preventing them from cantering. If you’ve tried all of the above and your horse still isn’t able to canter, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of an underlying health condition.

How do I get my horse to canter?

How do I get my horse to canter?

Now that we’ve gone over some of the reasons why a horse might not want to canter, let’s talk about what you can do to help them get over that hurdle.

Start with the Basics:

If you’re just starting out with horseback riding, or if it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, make sure you brush up on the basics before trying to canter.

This means getting comfortable with things like trotting and stop/go transitions. Once you have the basics down, you’ll be better able to cue the canter and help your horse understand what you want them to do.

According to Robyn Volkening who is a lifelong equestrian with 38 years on the saddle, “The easiest way for a beginner to canter/lope (western, same thing-different tack) a horse is to learn on a very experienced, calm horse that knows his job. A smooth mover that goes into the gait easily and doesn’t immediately stop or lunge forward is the best to learn on. In an enclosed, safe arena without much other activity to steer around, exercise the horse first so it is not excited.”

Robyn continues: “Lunge or ride the horse at the walk and trot first, doing exercises ahead of time to gauge the mood.  Don’t attempt to canter if the horse is excited or distracted.

Then, on a circle, look up, sit back, squeeze with the outside leg, kiss to the horse, and sort of scoop forward with your outside leg. Leave your hands still on a looser rein, don’t balance on their mouth.

Many horses will naturally canter when they’re asked, especially if they’re well-trained. This will cause the horse to change gaits and begin cantering.

Don’t Canter While Bouncing

Robyn also suggests: “Canter without bouncing: make sure your stirrups are adjusted correctly with a good bend in your knee (not too long), heels down, weight in your stirrups, sit deep, keep your legs on, and feel your weight go out of your heels. Make sure to look up, not down, and don’t balance on your hands/reins. Riding is active, not passive, you need to “hold” the horse with your legs and core contracted, and go with the movement, not sit too rigid or too sloppy.”

However, if your horse doesn’t naturally canter, you can also cue them into a canter by using a specific type of seat movement. To do this, you’ll need to be in the correct position on the horse – you should be sitting in the middle of the saddle, with your weight evenly distributed. You’ll also need to be leaning slightly forward, with your elbows and hands close to your body.

“Once you’re in the correct position, you’ll need to give the horse a cue to canter. This can be done by using your legs to push down on the horse’s sides, or by using your heels to flick the horse’s sides. You can also use a crop or a verbal cue, such as saying “canter”, says Laura Helke of WREI.

Once the horse is cantering, you’ll need to maintain your balance and stay in the middle of the saddle. You’ll also need to keep your weight evenly distributed and be prepared to react if the horse starts to canter too quickly.

Use the Correct Aids:

As we mentioned before, one of the most common reasons why horses don’t want to canter is because their riders aren’t using the correct aids. When you’re asking your horse to canter, make sure you’re using your legs, seat, and hand in the correct way.

This means applying pressure just behind the girth with your legs, posting slightly out of the saddle with your seat, and having a light yet firm contact with the horse’s mouth.

A Canter is a smooth gait, and one of the goals when cantering a horse is to maintain this smoothness. One way to do this is by using your bodyweight to help “steer” the horse. For example, if you want to go to the left, lean your body to the left.

Kara Dehoy CMO or Startups Anonymous

If you’re not sure how to do this, ask a qualified instructor for help.

Be Patient:

Finally, don’t get discouraged if it takes a while for your horse to learn how to canter. Every horse is different and will learn at its own pace. Just be patient and keep working with them, and eventually, they’ll be cantering around the arena like a pro.


What is a typical canter speed?

The typical horse canter speed is around 8-12 miles per hour. However, this can vary depending on the horse’s breed, age, and training.

What is the difference between a canter and a trot?

The difference between a canter and a trot is that a canter is a three-beat gait while a trot is a two-beat gait. This means that there are three beats in each stride when cantering, and two beats in each stride when trotting.

Canter or lope has “leads” where the inside front leg on a circle is striding more forward. There is no typical canter speed, some horses canter very slowly and some go faster. You can move the horse forward (faster/more extended) or slow it down to a very cadenced/collected canter.  You can trot faster than canter or canter faster than trot depending on the horse and its size and stride.


We hope this blog post has helped you learn more about why horses might not want to canter and what you can do to help them. Thanks for reading!

Marian Haaz
Marian is a cat adoption expert. She has rescued and adopted several cats herself and helped find homes for dozens of stray cats and dogs.
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