Tag Archives: rising canter

Stiffness in Rider’s Body – Using Rising Canter and “Soft Knees Half-Seat” for training.

Since writing “Stiff Arms When Riding and How To Train Them Away” some of you asked for more information on rising canter which I mentioned in the above post. As I have a young rider  training with me right now who is working on improving her effectiveness in canter, I roped her and her lovely pony, Ventus, in for a little video demonstration. Please bare in mind she is only learning the exercise and video footage shows her first go at it.


My two favourite canter exercises that fight stiffness and improve harmony are:

1)  using very soft knees in half – seat (or 2 point) and

2) the rising canter.

The reason being it is almost impossible to ride either of the above for more than several strides without also creating enough impulsion and freedom of movement in the horse’s gait. If canter is lacking forwardness or the horse is severely behind the leg, both canter exercises are impossible to do well.

As it is then, they give the rider immediate feedback on absolute basics which can be sometimes overlooked in full seat…


This way of riding a canter creates an appearance of somewhat bouncy canter seat but it should never ever be heavy on the horse’s back (rider’s seat either just about brushes the saddle in the down phase or lifts again before coming in contact with the saddle. All movement of the horse goes through rider’s knees, hips and ankles and despite having serious issues with one of my knees myself I have not personally noticed any detrimental effect of this way of riding. I have shown this exercise on a video included in this post. This way of riding in half seat is sometimes referred to as an “incorrect rising canter” but whatever we call it, it really builds feel, stability, upper body independence and arms suppleness 🙂 It also helps the rider with timing of the leg aids and with supporting each canter stride as and when necessary.

Additionally, it increases reaction time when jumping, is great for very hot horses and helps those riders who tend to fold over the jumps excessively.


Rising Canter stills
This is myself on Ventus. His saddle is too small for me – ideally you want your seat centred (mine should be closer to the pommel in the sitting phase).

In rising canter, the rider sits for one full stride and immediately stands up for the next full stride, then sits again for full stride and stands again for next one. This cantering method has many advantages not only for riders but for horses too.

I will focus on its use in rider’s training today.


(Do excuse my lack of decent presentation of the subject here; I am usually the one behind the camera! Let’s hope it’s helpful enough 🙂


Many novice and intermediate riders have trouble with riding the actual canter stride of their horse without stiffness. If they feel nervous they might move own body in “shorter” strides or “longer” strides, they might worry about being left behind or bounced upwards, they might grip through their thighs and knees and lose their stirrups, they might lock through their hip joints and “drive” the canter by rubbing their seat down into the saddle. This encourages the horse to dip his back away from the pressure and therefore tensing the very muscles that needs to be relaxed and supple for the movement to be most effortless and pleasant to both sit to and to watch.

Some advanced riders who were taught to grip with their knees in canter or sitting trot (especially those who jump or event) and who now struggle to improve the quality of their horses’ canter will also find both of these exercises to have unlocking effect on their pelvis and knees and stabilising effect on their hands. In turn, this will help with expression and freedom of the horse’s movement.

I can’t emphasise enough the influence both of these exercises have on overall improvement of movement harmony…I have seen novice riders going from rigid, stiff figurines to much more supple, fluid, effective riders in a few months of regular practice of canter exercises. It’s not a quick fix for sure but it is pretty much a permanent one.


Over the years I was surprised to notice that many riders find rising canter much easier to get the hang of than the balanced bouncy half seat which is why I did it myself on the video. It takes some practice to not adversely affect the stride or remain in control of upper body in this exercise but if you try and find it difficult, persevere – it will transform your confidence in timings of your aids and balance of your horse.

Agata will be back on screen next month to show you her progress with rising canter!

Please let me know if you found this useful and leave a comment with any questions. If you have a riding issue that you are working on, let me know, maybe we can explore it on here 🙂