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How to Ride Canter Half Pass

May 20, 2024

Canter half pass is a movement shown in the advanced level dressage tests but it is also a great gymnastic exercise to help your horse maintain good suppleness and engagement in the canter.

Source: How to Ride Canter Half Pass by Gareth Hughes, in the Ridely app. 

The Foundation of Learning the Half Pass

When you train your horse, you need to help them understand and recognise when they are doing the right thing. It is important that when you teach them a new exercise or movement, you soften the contact when it is correct. By doing this, you are telling them that it is their responsibility to continue and then they learn what you are asking.

In this article you will build on the foundations of half pass that you learned in this article about trot half pass, based on principles by International Dressage Rider Gareth Hughes, and apply them to the canter.

Exercise One: Repetition

Focusing on the half pass positioning principles by Gareth Hughes, you should be able to picture the half pass positioning as a banana around your leg, established through your shaping and directing aids. Jog your memory in this half pass article if needed!

Find Your Line for Practising Half Pass in Canter

When your horse is first learning something, you need to repeat it often to help them understand. Because of this, Gareth chooses a line that can be easily repeated: riding half pass from the wall to the centre line. This way, once you finish on the centre line, you can turn left or right to then repeat off the next wall. 

Repeat Your Line Until Correct

While riding the exercise, think about your horse’s body shape and the line you are riding down. Add a little bend then canter forward down the arena toward the centre line with your horse subtly around your inside leg. Repeat this on the next wall and remember to soften when the positioning is correct! 

The easier your horse finds it, the more sideways you can go to increase the angle making it slightly harder. If they find it hard, decrease the angle. If you find it hard to think about your aids while riding, make the angle more shallow to give yourself more time. Make sure to repeat the exercise on both reins during your session. 

Exercise Two: Increasing Difficulty with More Lines

Once you and your horse are familiar with the canter half pass line in the exercise above, you can make it a little more difficult to start testing the rideability by adding a few lines together. 

Ride Half Pass from the Centre Line to the Wall

Start by turning down the centre line and riding your canter half pass toward the wall. Make sure to ride it forward, sideways and around your inside leg. Once you hit the wall, ride counter canter around the short side then pick up the next diagonal line and refresh your canter with a few medium canter strides. Then repeat this again and try it on the other rein. 

Ride Half Pass from the Quarter Line to the Wall

As your horse gets better at this exercise, you can move the initial half pass across the school to make the line longer and the angle tighter. Try starting on the ¾ line and riding half pass all the way over the other wall. 

If your horse gets stuck or finds it too difficult, don’t worry! Just make the line easier again and go back to the centre line to start. 

Want more Dressage Tips?

To see this all in action, along with many more dressage movements, check out Gareth Hughes’ Training Program “Mastering the Aids and Position” in Ridely.

Gareth Hughes’ Training Program Highlights

Learn all of this in Gareth’s comprehensive dressage training program:

  1. How to Establish a Correct Position: Learn the foundational principles of achieving the perfect riding position, the key to mastering dressage.
  2. How to Ride Basic Transitions: Discover the art of seamlessly transitioning between gaits and movements.
  3. How to Ride Leg Yield: Master the lateral movement that demonstrates your horse’s suppleness and your finesse as a rider.
  4. How to Ride and Sit to Medium Trot: Unlock the secrets of executing the medium trot, a display of control and power.
  5. How to Ride Rein Back: Perfect the rein back, an essential movement for a lot of dressage programs.
  6. How to Ride Shoulder In: Explore the intricacies of the shoulder-in, a hallmark of dressage finesse.
  7. How to Ride Trot Half Pass: Learn the art of executing a half pass at the trot, a test of your horse’s and your own lateral abilities.
  8. How to Ride Canter Half Pass: Take your skills to the next level with the canter half pass.
  9. How to Ask for Flying Changes: Finally, demystify the flying changes – a movement that leaves audiences in awe.

Many of us know what different movements should look like, but how to ride them is another story! We asked Gareth to explain the specific aids for each movement. 

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