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Horse Racing/cross canter reason


hello sir, may i know why few horses cross canter?

Hi Rohit:

Thanks for your question - before correcting a horse's cross canter, also known as "cross-fire" or "disquiet canter," make sure you correct the cause. Cross cantering occurs when a horse leads with one leg in the front, but leads with the opposite leg in the rear. This makes the gait uncomfortable for the rider and it can result in point deductions in competition. Underlying issues that can cause a horse to cross canter include inexperience, weakness and unsoundness or balance issues.

Horses are not born knowing how to canter, just as humans are not born knowing how to run. As their coordination and balance develop, they learn what muscles they need to canter and begin strengthening them. A cross canter is most obvious when the horse is moving in a circle where the legs on the inside should be moving forward first. In nature, horses do not typically move in circles when there is room to run freely and they change leads frequently as direction changes.

Poor training and training a young horse too early can cause it to cross canter. Training for young horses commonly begins in a small enclosed pen on a lunge line that keeps it moving around the instructor in a circle. Young horses may not be able to perform these movements and they may cross canter if trained too young. Trainers who do not discourage this behavior teach the horse that a cross canter is acceptable and make it harder to correct.

Horses of all ages may cross canter when they do not have the strength necessary to canter on the correct lead. A horse pushes off from its hind end, and the hind leg opposite the correct lead, also called the "outside leg," supports most of the weight. If a horse does not have adequate muscle in its haunches or is weak in the hips, it may cross canter because it is easier.

Horses who are unsound or in pain may cross canter; always eliminate these possibilities first before attempting retraining. An improperly fitting saddle can cause back pain that makes it painful for the horse to maintain the correct lead. Trainers recommend having a vet and chiropractor examine a horse that cross canters to make sure it is not in pain. If it clears a physical examination, the problem may be behavioral.

Though a horse in the wild will canter naturally, a horse under saddle may need some training in order to grasp this skill with a rider on its back. The canter is a gait that falls in between the trot and a full gallop. For optimum results, training should begin on the ground and then advance to the saddle. Teaching a horse to canter will only be successful if the horse already knows how to walk and trot under the saddle. It is also beneficial if the horse understands how to lunge.  

In order to train a horse to properly canter, use the following seven steps:

1 - Outfit your horse in a properly fitted halter. Hook a lunge line to the halter and lead the horse to a large, flat area where you can safely lunge it.

2 - Ask the horse to move out in a circle around you at a trot. Encourage the horse to keep moving by lightly tapping its hindquarters with the whip.

3 - Cluck at the horse to encourage it to move a little faster at the trot. Give the horse any desired command to canter. Some examples of commands are "giddy up," "hut hut," "canter" or "let's go." It does not matter which command you give as long as you are consistent and say the command loudly and firmly. If horse begins to canter, stop it and offer a reward. If the horse fails to canter, you can tap its hindquarters with a whip. Continue practicing this until the horse automatically moves into the canter when you give the command.

4 - Saddle your horse in its regular halter and bridle. Take the horse to a safely enclosed space to work on the canter. Warm up the horse a little bit at the trot before working on the canter lesson.

5 - Select a straight fence line in the enclosure to begin the cantering lesson. The fence will help keep the horse straight when it is first learning. Trot the horse up and down the fence line a few times to get it used to the area.

6 - Begin a fast forward trot down the fence line. Lean to the front of the saddle, loosen your grip on the reins, tap your heels lightly and give the horse your command for canter. If the horse begins to canter, release all cues and reward it. If the horse does not begin to canter try tapping it on the shoulder with the whip or quirk. If the horse still does not begin to canter, try tapping it lightly on the rump until it moves into a canter. Practice until you no longer need the whip or quirk.

7 - Canter the horse and practice stops and turns. Repeat all of these things until you are comfortable at the canter before riding the horse outside of the enclosure.

I hope this helps you to understand why a few horses cross canter and how to correct the problem.

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Jim Johnson


I can answer all questions regarding the sport of gambling on either or both thoroughbreds and greyhounds - beginning with the initial handicapping process with regard to decisions on which horse or dog to wager, through the wagering process, and ending with the results and profits or losses from those wagers. See my website at


I have worked in thoroughbred tracks and greyhound tracks for the last 30 years and have been highly successful in making profits from my own handicapping systems, both in sales of my systems, and use of my systems in the wagering process. I publish and sell a "Tip Sheet" for any track in the continental United States, Canada, and one greyhound track in Mexico.

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"The Perfect Speed Handicapping System" for handicapping thoroughbred races and "Greyhounds - The Ultimate Speed Machine" system for handicapping greyhound races. These are books that I have written and sell on the internet.

Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from East Texas College, in Commerce, Texas.

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Multiple "High Five" awards for exceptional customer relations treatment by the Oaklawn Jockey Club.

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Publishing a "Tip Sheet" in-track for sale at Oaklawn Jockey Club and "Jim's Big Three Best Bets" (also for sale at Oaklawn Jockey Club) on greyhound simulcast races. Have puplished "Tip Sheets" for greyhound and thoroughbred tracks in Arkanas, Kansas, and West Virginia.

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