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Is Cantering Easier Than Trotting?

Horses typically have four gaits, walk, trot, canter, and gallop and the difference between a trot and canter lies in the order in which the horse’s legs move and whether the legs are moved simultaneously or on their own. When riding a horse at a canter or trot, let’s find out which are easier?

Typically cantering is easier and smoother than trotting because trotting bounces the rider up and down in a two-beat gait while a horse’s legs work in diagonal pairs. Cantering is a faster rhythmic three-beat gait where your body moves with the horse’s stride that is easier to sit in the saddle.

Horses have different gaits; trotting and cantering are two of them. Which are easier to ride? Trotting or cantering? This article looks at the difference between a canter and a trot to help you find out which gait is the easiest to ride. Let’s look in detail at a horse’s gaits to find out which are the most comfortable.

A Trotting Horse – The Movements

A trotting horse moves its legs together in diagonal pairs, moving the right foreleg simultaneously with the left hind leg. Trotting is a two-beat stride, with a moment of suspension between each stride where all four hooves are simultaneously in the air.

A trotting horse can reach variable speeds and generally averages around 6 miles per hour. At a slow trot, one hoof is always on the ground, where a faster trot sees all four hooves off the ground altogether.

Trotting is not as comfortable and smooth as walking because the horse bounces between each stride.  There are four kinds of trot: medium trot, working trot, lengthening trot, collected trot, and extended trot.

A Cantering Horse – The Movements

A canter is a controlled three-beat gait faster than a trot but slightly slower than a gallop. When a horse canter to the right, the hoof fall is as follows: left hind, left diagonal (together left fore and right hind), right fore, followed by a brief suspension with all four hooves in the air before the next stride starts.

There are five types of canters: medium canter, working canter, collected canter, lengthening canter, and extended canter.

When a horse canter, the leading front leg stretches out further than the other leg; this is typically the inside leg when riding inside an area. A horse’s right front leg should always lead during a canter when riding around the arena in the right direction.

Generally, a canter averages between 8 miles per hour to 17 miles per hour, depending on the length of the horse’s strides.

How to Ride a Sitting Trot without Bouncing

Here are a few helpful tips for mastering the sitting trot without bouncing.

Learning how to sit the trot can be challenging. It can be complicated when a novice adult rider did not ride as a child. The only way to develop balance and learn to sit in the sitting trot comfortably is to ride the sitting trot repeatedly until it is mastered. Learning how to sit in the sitting trot correctly can take months of training.

Start by sitting the trot on the lunge line without stirrups or reins, and imagine yourself pushing the saddle forward onto the horse’s withers with your hips. This sitting movement will help you stay connected to your horse while trotting.

To achieve a perfect sitting trot, you cannot keep your body quiet, and still, you should synchronize with your horse’s movements. When a horse is trotting, its back muscles are moving, so to stay in sync with your horse, your back muscles must move too.

When starting to learn a sitting trot, choose a steady horse with an even trot that will make it easier for you to synchronize with your horse while trotting.

When your horse transitions from walk to trot, don’t rise the trot before you start sitting; rather, stay seated in the saddle when he starts trotting so that you feel the trotting rhythm in the first strides.

Ask your lunger to keep the horse’s trot slow so that you can feel the rhythm closely. Move your hips and picture pushing the saddle forward onto your horse’s withers while sitting in the trot. Move your body until it you are in perfect sync with your horse.

It will take a while to figure it out, don’t worry; if you bounce a little at first in the sitting trot, Horses don’t mind a slight bouncing now and then.

When a saddle fits the horse well, it distributes the rider’s weight across his back, reducing any discomfort from a bouncy rider.

If you struggle with balance, hook your little finger around the saddle’s pommel and use it to help you balance yourself; however, do not pull yourself deeper into the saddle.

You should rely on your legs to grip and keep your body in place while sitting in the trot. Wrap your legs around your horse’s barrel and hold them against his sides while seated in the trot.

Ride one complete circle in the lung ring while sitting, start rising in the trot and ask for a more forward trot from your horse. Ride a circle in the lunge ring while rising in the trot, then return to a walk. Start a round in the sitting trot again and continue the exercise until you start feeling the horse’s rhythm and move in synchronicity.

Practice these lunging sessions as often as you can, gradually building up the number of rounds you can do sitting comfortably in the saddle.

Slowly, you will feel the horse’s rhythm and begin to relax while sitting in the trot, moving in unison with the horse. Once you feel five consecutive strides in unison, you will know you moved correctly with the horse.

Once you feel comfortable enough in the lunge ring with your progress, start riding out on regular rides. Keep the trot slow while sitting, then move your horse forward, transitioning to a rising trot and return to a sitting trot after a few minutes.

Do this until you feel comfortable, then start sitting in a medium trot, and again don’t worry if you bounce; you will soon balance and get into the rhythm.

If you want to switch to a saddle with thicker knee rolls that are more comfortable, don’t feel embarrassed. Do what works for you to be as comfortable as you can.

A sitting trot is not the most comfortable ride; rather than striving for perfection, aim for slow, steady progress. You will get better with practice; the sitting trot will get smoother and easier in the end.

How to Ride at a Canter Without Bouncing 

These tips will help you achieve a better canter with your horse. The perfect canter always takes a few tries and a lot of practice before it is perfected. If you are a novice rider and have never cantered on a horse before, it is a good idea to have a trainer or experienced rider there to assist you; learning to canter takes time and a lot of practice. 

Relax your back muscles and let your body swing just slightly in rhythm with your horse while relaxing in the canter. The canter feels very much like a strong rocking motion in the saddle.

It is a big step for novice riders who are learning how to canter after perfecting the walk and trot. The canter stride is unique. The rhythmic gait showcases the full measure of a horse’s power and grace.

If you are a novice rider that has never cantered, cantering might seem intimidating.  However, cantering is much smoother and easier than trotting once you have mastered it.

To transition into a smooth canter, start with a relaxed trot, push your horse with your legs to just offer a little more speed. Relax your body and sit deeper into the saddle. When a horse is trotting at a variable speed, he is not ready to be asked for the canter. Wait until you reach the place where your horse’s stride is predictable, energetic, and supple.

To get ready for the transition from a trot to a canter, start by taking a deep breath sitting deep into your saddle and stirrups, and get your legs and hands in the correct place for the canter.

Focus on extending your lower body so that you feel secure and let your center follow the horse’s stride.

Relax and move your legs into place. The leg facing the inside of the ring should be right at the girth, while your outside leg should be placed just behind the girth; this leg position will aid your horse to pick up the lead and support him in the canter.

Your upper body should be fully upright, and your elbows must be supple. Keep light contact on your reins without pulling on your horse’s bit.

You are now in the correct position to anticipate the canter stride, and it’s time to ask your horse to move into the canter. 

Apply pressure with your legs and sit in the saddle and once your horse begins cantering, release the leg pressure but continue sitting in the saddle following the movement.

When you transition into the canter, keep your back straight, your shoulders back and open, and your head up. Don’t look down; remain upright and confident while cantering in unison with your horse. 

You want your upper body to be upright, but at the same time, you want your lower body to feel it is anchoring with every stride. Relax your center and allow yourself to move in unison with your horse. 

Don’t depend on your legs and the bit to control your horse’s speed; try to anchor the speed of the canter with your lower leg. You are using the timing of the sinking of your heels to move your horse slower or faster.

Riding into a comfortable canter without bouncing is an accomplishment; relax and enjoy it. Keep your muscles from tensing if, at first, you struggle to gain speed. The better you keep your position, the more you support your horse in the canter.

When your horse tries to return to trot, apply some pressure with your legs. When he is unbalanced and tries to rush the canter, sit deeper into your saddle and, with pelvic motion, move him on while applying some contact on the bit.

When you are ready to slow back down to a trot, sit deeper into your saddle and slow the pelvic motion down before pulling gently on the reins. 

Keep contact with your horse’s mouth, then apply heavier contact if he doesn’t understand the aids from your seat.  Continue to stay upright as your horse returns to the trot.

Cantering is Easier Than Trotting

When you mastered the canter and used to the rhythm, you will find cantering far more enjoyable and comfortable than trotting. Most horse riders find cantering easier than trotting as the canter is a smooth, comfortable gait, while trotting is bouncy and uncomfortable.


Cantering is easier to ride than trotting because when a horse is trotting, the rider bounces up and down on the saddle when the horse’s diagonal legs hit and lift off the ground.

Because the trot is bouncy, it can take a while to get used to it. Horse riders have to sit on the trot; that’s where the rider stays down in the saddle, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable.

Canter is easier than trotting because it is rhythmic, comfortable, smooth, and enjoyable; riding your horse while the wind blows through your hair on the three-beat stride is far more relaxing than the other three gaits.

It almost feels like a dance full of flow and grace when a horse canters. Allow your horse to lead while you follow, and you will experience an exhilaration beyond belief. Cantering is the loveliest gait of all the horse gaits.

We hope we have answered the question for you that cantering is easier than trotting and that you get to experience it for yourself.


Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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