The walk to canter is more challenging to teach your horse than the trot to canter, but once learnt, it is easier for your horse to execute. This is due to the sequence in which your horse’s legs move. The walk is a four-beat gait where all legs move individually. In the trot, the legs move in two diagonal pairs. To transition from the trot to the canter, the linkage of one of these diagonal pairs must be broken, whereas from the walk, there is no such physical complication.
How to ride the walk to canter
1. Ensure your horse has an energised walk but is not tense; many horses begin to anticipate the walk-to-canter transition. When you have the walk you want, move your outside leg back and give a downward/forward push with your inside seat bone.
2. If your horse is slightly slow off the aid, you may need to nudge your horse with your inside leg.
3. To ensure your horse does not walk faster or trot in the transition, you may need a slightly stronger feel through the contact than usual; this is only during the transition. Once in the canter, you can return to your regular rein contact.
It is important to know when to ask for the transition, too. There is only ONE moment in the walk when your horse can go from the walk to the canter on the inside lead. This is as your horse’s outside front hoof is on the ground, and his inside hind is lifted into the air. When you ask for the transition, you will change the outside hind legs’ action from going into another step of walking to the first step of the canter. This may sound tricky, but you can check this the same way you check your diagonal in the trot, as the outside shoulder moves back towards you, you ask. As with checking your diagonal, it becomes easier with practice.