Should I teach my horse Counter Canter?

Joanna Fisher
Joanna Fisher

International Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Joanna Fisher shares her thoughts on the usefulness of training your horse to do counter canter…

Counter canter is a movement used in the lower level tests to show the discipline of training, that the horse remains balanced, collected and of course does not change legs!
Counter canter to the right is canter with a left leading leg and left bend. Counter canter to the left requires a right lead and right bend. The main difference between counter canter and cantering on the wrong leg is keeping the bend over the leading leg.
When you attain the higher levels from intermediate upwards, then counter canter is no longer required. It is however a superb way of collecting and balancing the canter and it is a movement I train all my horses to do.
To train my horses I begin in normal canter (for example if I’m on the left rein- in left canter lead) and start going large and moving onto a circle. It is important to have already a certain degree of submission in the canter, that the horse goes where you want without breaking and a basic degree of collection and balance!
Then I normally start by turning up the centre line or three quarter line and aiming back for the track before the diagonal marker. It is important not to push the horse into the corner on the counter canter, I usually aim to stay a good few metres from the track, to make it as easy as possible.
The aids for counter canter will be the same as normal canter, outside leg back, soft inside bend, and a secure outside rein. The only difference I would make is that just before the counter canter begins I would move my seat to the inside to assist the horse in balance. So left canter- right leg back and my bottom positioned more to the left side of the saddle!
Remember the first few times/days- weeks the horse is learning new balance. Be patient! The more it learns to stay in counter canter, the closer you can move to the track, until you can comfortably keep on the track and continue around the school in the counter canter.
Always praise the horse for its efforts. It’s confusing for them to begin with- it’s the opposite canter lead to what we teach then!
Remember to practise both ways, and after, return to normal canter strike off transitions to reassure the horse that it is doing what you ask.

Joanna has written a collection of children’s books based on her horses over the years.

It has been published by award winning Candy Jar books and currently available in Waterstones and being read in schools. Click here to link to her website: www.stablegossip.com. She also has a dressage website which can be found at http://www.joannafisherdressage.com/

For more advice from Joanna, why not visit her other blog posts here:

 

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Joanna has written a collection of children’s books based on her horses over the years.

It has been published by award winning Candy Jar books and currently available in Waterstones and being read in schools. Click here to link to her website: www.stablegossip.com. She also has a dressage website which can be found at http://www.joannafisherdressage.com/

 

 

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