الإثنين 22 يوليو 2024

The Benefits of Cantering Your Horse

موقع أيام نيوز

When it comes to cantering riders seem to divide in two camps. In one camp are those who favour it above all else while the other camp includes those who find it scary or unpleasant. I would like to add a third camp riders who understand the unparalleled physiological benefits of cantering their horses. Beyond the obvious cardiovascular conditioning cantering can improve muscle tone symmetry and flexibility more than other gaits. Let me explain this further in addition to offering some tips and guidelines.
Many arena riders like myself were taught to fully master our horses balance and performance at trot before tackling canter. In reality it can take such a long time to master good trot performance that the canter suffers repeated postponement sometimes for a couple of years or more. And without daily bouts of cantering we are lacking one of the best tools to help a horse use his body optimally. I have heard vets massage therapists and skilled trainers recommend cantering to improve a horses body mechanics whether or not it is perfectly executed.

During canter the horse swings his hind limbs forward by lumbosacral flexion as opposed to hip flexion which is the primary hinge point for trotting. This repeated cycle of flexion and extension of the lumbosacral junction stimulates the horses lower back while also maximally extending the gluteal muscle a common source of tension and rigid postural habits. As wavelike motions of each stride activate this area the horse releases restriction from his back and topline muscle chain.
This explains why most horses feel smoother and more comfortable to ride after a bout of cantering. Further during canter the horses respiration cycle syncs to the rhythm of his strides through a process called entrainment. On the downbeat of each stride his pistonlike diaphragm shoves forward against the chest wall causing exhalation. The quicker he canters the more rapidly he needs to take in air.
This is an important way to help young tense or stiff horses relax their trunk muscles and breathe deeply allowing them to round their topline. Many horses hold their breath or they breathe shallowly and keep the muscles of their ribcages clamped especially during trot when the spine mostly serves the role of a rigid balancing rod rather than a conduit for wavelike pulsations. Cantering helps break the habit of shallow or holding breaths.
Not only is deep rhythmic breathing essential for mental relaxation