One of my newsletter readers emailed me and asked:
Hi Jane I'm confused about the aid for the canter. I know to ask for the canter it is outside leg behind the girth and inside at the girth, however during the canter is your outside leg supposed to stay back or do both legs then become neutral at the girth once the canter is achieved? Here's what I had to say to her: Swing your outside leg back ONCE, and then bring it back to it's normal position on the girth. Think of it as a spring-loaded action or a windshield-wiper like action. If you wait for your horse to answer, he's not listening to your leg aid. If he doesn't canter right away, give him a little bump with your outside leg or tap him with the whip. (Carry your whip in the outside hand for the canter work so you can use it to reinforce your outside leg aid.) As soon as he does the canter depart, reward him. You can teach him to canter by holding your outside leg back, but when you get to the point of doing half passes in the trot, your horse will be confused. He won't know whether to stay in the trot and go sideways for a half pass or to pick up the canter. It's easier to teach him to canter from an aid that ONLY means canter depart than to teach him to canter from that aid and then have to reschool him when you get to trot half passes.