Canter Aid - Inside vs. Outside Leg

Kind of a basic question, but I have always cued my horse into a canter by pushing mostly with my outside leg. My new dressage instructor always wants me to use my inside leg instead for impulsion.

What difference if any does it make in the quality of the movement? Is it just a matter of how the horse is trained or does it really matter?

Thanks!

I’m not an expert on the matter, but I have taken enough lessons in both H/J and dressage land to have seen people use different ways of asking.

One trainer I took lessons from a while ago had people cue with their inside hip, as in lifting it while applying inside leg.

With the trainers I work with now, I use inside leg at the girth for impulsion and then swing my outside leg back in a sweeping motion, kind of like a windshield wiper.

I don’t know how much it really matters, so it will be interesting to hear what other people have to say about that.

Seeing different people cueing for flying changes different ways, maybe it’s about what works for them on that particular horse.

Well if your horse is straight and you ask for the canter by kicking with the outside leg then you will be inadvertently kicking the haunches to the inside, making your horse crooked. Additionally, you ideally want to prepare yourself for tempis, and using hip/inside leg aid takes less time.

I was also taught that it should be done with the inside hip b/c of flying changes/tempis (not that I am adept at either, but can do killer halt or walk/canter transitions with just the hip at least). Additionally, I’ve been told that lifting the inside hip gives the inside shoulder room to lift and the inside hind room to reach under in the transition – if you pitch your body forward, this prevents the horse from lifting his front end, so it’s something to be careful about when learning to do the transition this way.

The coach I learned the most from gave me this perspective on leg aids:
Generally (for a horse that’s already well responsive to driving aids), the inside (lower) leg is for driving (within a gait, around a bend, as part of a half-halt, etc) and the outside (lower) leg should only be for passively supporting the hind end (i.e. to keep it from swinging out).

As HollyGoLightly said, driving with the outside by itself will push the haunches in, often at the expense of your forward momentum and engagement of the inside hind.

In the context of a canter transition, if you need to ask for a little curving line as part of the preparation for the transition (e.g. to ensure the correct lead), then you should indeed use the combo of driving inside, bringing the leg back a little bit outside to support the bend. This combination of aids (precursor to half-halt, really) are something you may want to do in other instances though, so it could be confusing for the horse if sometimes you mean canter and sometimes not. So among the other reasons given, for clarity’s sake, the actual cue for the transition should be something other than inside leg/outside leg.

Once the horse learns the cue from the seat and is able to maintain reasonable straightness, the inside/outside curving line business can be reduced to genuine half-halts to engage the inside hind leg, and then the hip really becomes a nice clear (to the horse) invisible (to everyone else) aid.

In short: biomechanics of the transition, clarity, straightness, riding from back to front. (All of which must be important for changes and tempis.)

It’s sort of both.

Canter cue 101 is outside leg. Watch almost every GP rider doing tempi changes, and you will see legs swinging back.

But, as the horse becomes more tuned to your leg and weight, the outside leg is more stablizing, collecting, and then it is the lifting of the inside hip, not the inside leg. So when they are finally atuned, it’s sort of a drop with the outside hip and a lifting of the inside hip to allow the horse to come up into it.

I’m JUST starting my baby and we’re JUST starting cantering. Right now it’s waiting until she’s built up some momentum, and outside leg, inside bend, cluck, and “canter” to give her the idea. We are slowly moving into sitting a few steps before in the trot, inside bend, and outside leg. It’s going to be awhile before she’s refined enough to allow me to just lift the inside hip into the canter.

Hunters are outside leg, dressage is inside. Makes things easier down the road as you move up the levels to start that way instead of having to retrain cues.

The horse is bent around the inside leg. Therefore the inside leg is on, it also is the leg maintaining impulsion.

The outside leg comes back to request the outside leg to reach further under the horse to initiate the first canter stride.

Eventually, both horse and rider are able to accomplish transitions and changes through subtle shifts in the hips and weight. But those legs are always there.

[QUOTE=Beentheredonethat;7630662]It’s sort of both.

Canter cue 101 is outside leg. Watch almost every GP rider doing tempi changes, and you will see legs swinging back.

But, as the horse becomes more tuned to your leg and weight, the outside leg is more stablizing, collecting, and then it is the lifting of the inside hip, not the inside leg. So when they are finally atuned, it’s sort of a drop with the outside hip and a lifting of the inside hip to allow the horse to come up into it.

I’m JUST starting my baby and we’re JUST starting cantering. Right now it’s waiting until she’s built up some momentum, and outside leg, inside bend, cluck, and “canter” to give her the idea. We are slowly moving into sitting a few steps before in the trot, inside bend, and outside leg. It’s going to be awhile before she’s refined enough to allow me to just lift the inside hip into the canter.[/QUOTE]

I really like this description.
I’ve had this conversation with myself for eons (keeps me entertained on long car trips) because my horses cross over between hunters and dressage, and I simply can not bring myself to quit the hunter habit using the outside leg for a canter cue. I understand you need to send the new inside pair of legs forward but I just can’t cue with the inside leg. Also for resale purposes they are worth three times a much in hunterland so the canter cue needs to stay “hunter style” so that no one looks at me like, “…But how do you get it to GO…?”

So I really like the idea that as the horse gets more tuned, to switch the majority of the aid to the inside hip.

Makes total sense with the lead changes, too, sending the inside pair of legs forward with the inside hip while keeping your outside hip back to match his hips. If you bring your inside leg back your hips won’t match his, if you bring the inside hip up they will.

NOW WHAT WILL I TALK TO MYSELF ABOUT IN THE CAR?

I’ve always cued with the outside leg. I’ve been doing hunters for about 5 years but want to incorporate some dressage now so I guess I better get working on seat cues.
Someone came to do a clinic last year (and this past weekend but I didn’t go) and she always says to cue with the inside leg. And she is a hunter/jumper trainer.
Interesting post :slight_smile:

[QUOTE=lidador;7630577]I was also taught that it should be done with the inside hip b/c of flying changes/tempis (not that I am adept at either, but can do killer halt or walk/canter transitions with just the hip at least). Additionally, I’ve been told that lifting the inside hip gives the inside shoulder room to lift and the inside hind room to reach under in the transition – if you pitch your body forward, this prevents the horse from lifting his front end, so it’s something to be careful about when learning to do the transition this way.
[/QUOTE]

:yes: Good stuff and great post!

I like this explaination as well, from http://www.classicaldressage.co.uk/html/improving_the_canter_depart.html

Remember also, that the most important aid is our seat. That must remain glued into the saddle whilst giving aids with any other part of our body. If we come off the seat, even very slightly, this in itself can destroy the clarity of any other aid we may be giving at the same time. So do your best to remain ‘softly’ glued (without pushing downward) through your seat as you give your canter depart aid with your seat/hip bone and inside calf.

Think of the aid beginning with the outside leg and shoulder. The outside leg goes back slightly, from the hip joint, not just the knee and prepares the horse for the strike-off aid with the inside calf.

I think it is all a preference. Plus what buttons do you want to have? Are you going to be competing GP levels?

IMO there is no right/wrong way to train aids. There are those that make more sense but once the horse learns what each aid means it doesn’t matter which way you put it as long as it is comfortable, quiet and works effectively.

I will always use my outside leg to cue canter. Though, it is just a slight shift in weight and slight slide back with the leg.
I do however, for all transitions, first apply a little inside leg at the girth. I feel this give the horse a warning to listen for something so you get a smooth transition and it asks the inside hind to step a bit more under for a good push.

Very interesting. I strictly ride hunters, but I opened this thread because I audited a George Morris clinic last weekend where he stressed asking for the canter with the inside leg. Funny thing, when he made the kids do this (and “throw away” the inside rein), over half the horses picked up the wrong lead. I’ve audited several of his clinics, but this was the first I had ever heard of asking with the inside leg (the trainer beside me had never heard it either). I guess it makes sense that it has a dressage background since he is big on dressage, but it was new to me. I will admit that I tried it yesterday and just couldn’t do it!

I came from hunterland myself before riding with a classical dressage trainer (that also has a background in hunters), it was definitely a change, and completely different from how I was originally taught, but it all makes perfect sense.

I once heard Charles de Kunffy say to think of “striking a match” with your inside seat bone. So that would be sort of a forward, then lightening sensation. The key to any of these cues is timing. You need to cue the canter when the outside hind leg has the opportunity to push off into the first canter stride. Otherwise, the horse will have to wait until the next time that leg “comes around.”

This is something I struggled with for years with my now retired oldie. He was an ex-foxhunter and we just did some low level stuff.
He picked up a canter from the inside leg, which made it difficult, each time I asked for more impulsion or more bend around my inside leg at the trot, he understood that as “pick up canter”.
Like someone said, what level of work are you aspiring too. I now ask my other horse by bringing my outside leg back and lifting inside hip, making sure I don’t use the inside leg at the depart, but only after depart when I want him more forward.
Preventing my oldie from cantering when any inside leg was used, became a challenge :D.

It is conversations like this that damn dressage riders to eternal nerd dom. Love it!

[QUOTE=Lieslot;7631428]This is something I struggled with for years with my now retired oldie. He was an ex-foxhunter and we just did some low level stuff.
He picked up a canter from the inside leg, which made it difficult, each time I asked for more impulsion or more bend around my inside leg at the trot, he understood that as “pick up canter”.
Like someone said, what level of work are you aspiring too. I now ask my other horse by bringing my outside leg back and lifting inside hip, making sure I don’t use the inside leg at the depart, but only after depart when I want him more forward.
Preventing my oldie from cantering when any inside leg was used, became a challenge :D.[/QUOTE]

Definitely it is what works for you and what you are aspiring to accomplish! Just to clarify, the inside leg is on for impulsion. It is your seat that really asks for the canter. The seat is what needs to change, otherwise it would be very confusing for the horse.

The conversation (in my mind) goes something like this:

Half halt - “Hey buddy, we’re about to change something”
Inside leg on - “Keep it moving forward”
Outside leg back - “Don’t swing haunches out and stay straight”
Inside seat bone - “Canter”
Hand - “I’m supporting you and not abandoning this movement”
Following seat - “Keep this gait”

That is my nerdy conversation with my horse. =) Other conversations include gems such as “get off my leg,” “Lets loosen up that shoulder” and “why don’t we take a break?”

Again, whatever works for you and your goals.

meupatdoes, sorry I took away the conversation in your head!

I think it was Lindgren who was explaining that (I got to ride with him some) you can make your canter cue my tweaking their left ear, or whatever. It is whatever you decide. The idea is you want to make it easy for you and the horse.

When you think about it, hunter riders are way out of their seat compared to dressage, so the outside leg makes sense. You can’t really lift up the inside hip. For dressage, it makes sense to weight the outside hip and lift the inside (it’s not putting on the inside leg) because that puts the rider’s balance back where it is supposed to be and makes it easier for the horse.

When you’ve got a good, well-trained horse, tempi changes are just alternating lifting the inside hips. I don’t usually use my outside leg unless I’m having issues. Again, though, as I said before, you can watch Olympic dressage and you will see thos legs swinging back and forth for those changes.

Great thread!

I definitely notice a hunter/dressage distinction in it, and clearly that’s associated with the necessary cues at the upper levels. But I wanted to add that when I got my first horse, he was particularly POed in canter transitions (this was during my time in hunterland). My trainer, primarily an eventer, suggested just asking with my inside leg/seat, and voila, no more pissy horse! So that got me switched to asking with my inside leg/seat (that horse was more a “just think canter” guy, so a tiny bit of just one calf for a nanosecond and he picked it up), and now that I’m just doing dressage, I understand the utility of it. And just the other day my trainer had me working to refine it further to just my seat (I would also lay my inside calf at the girth), just to get my guy a bit sharper to the aids as we move up, and it has already made our transitions, and general riding, better.