Ever heard the phrase ‘don’t kill the canter’ from your instructor, but not sure how you’re causing it or how to avoid it? British showjumping coach Phillipa McKeever explains all.

‘Killing the canter’ basically means shortening the canter, usually by unnecessary use of collection aids beyond the most desirable and optimum canter for jumping.

The reasons for this might include:

  • The rider is physically unable to sit to their horse’s canter/natural jumping rhythm.
  • Nerves – the rider may be anxious about jumping so they slow down in order to make themselves safer. This actually has the opposite effect, however, and makes it more likely your horse will argue and fight for freedom so that he can jump effectively.
  • Over-bitting – check that your horse’s bridle is the right one for him, including the noseband and bit combination.

The solutions:

  1. Fitness – Make sure that you’re as supple as your horse is, so try physiotherapy or practice Pilates or yoga. Then use canter poles set at a true jumping rhythm to practice riding at the correct canter and speed for your horse to get set distances. For example, put a pole 18 yards (four strides) in front of a small jump and practise jumping the pole, then counting the four non-jumping strides to the jump.
  2. Confidence – Be honest with your instructor about how you’re feeling and make sure that their requirements of you in training are not so far out of your comfort zone that you end up riding negatively.
  3. Bit fit – Ask your coach to sit on your horse so that they can feel what you feel; this may give them more information and allow them to suggest a better system.