Counter Canter

Counter canter is a great exercise to improve your horse’s canter as it is a test of balance, suppleness, straightness, and collection. The counter canter is introduced at  first level and ALL of the second level tests include counter canter. You also have counter canter in the Prix St. George, so it is an important exercise to practice, even if your horse knows flying changes!

Prerequisites for counter canter:

Before you introduce the counter canter, you must have your horse in a good uphill balance and have some degree of collection and suppleness.  Before introducing the counter canter, you should be able to ride a 10m circle at the canter and do a walk-canter transition.

What are the aids for counter canter?

The aids for counter canter are the same as the aids for canter.  Your outside leg should be behind the girth and the inside leg at the girth and the horse should stay slightly flexed to the inside.  If you are in left lead canter and you go across the diagonal, the horse stays flexed left (even though you are turning right) and your left leg stays at the girth and the right leg is behind the girth. It is also VERY IMPORTANT that you stay sitting on your inside seat bone in the counter canter. ( Left seat bone in left lead canter).

What are some common mistakes in counter canter?

  1. Horse breaks to the trot – if this happens, reorganize, maybe go to the walk, and then pick up the canter again.
  2. Horse speeds up – throw in some 10-meter circles to rebalance the horse
  3. Rider over-bends the horse – try not to do this

Here is a breakdown for how to introduce the counter canter:

  1. Start by turning in from the rail and then ride straight on the quarter line.  Be sure you can do this without the horse speeding up or breaking into the trot.
  2. Practice going from the rail out to the quarter line and then back to the rail.
  3. Once you can get to the quarter line, then ride a shallow loop serpentine all the way to X!

I usually introduce the counter canter first on the easier lead but be sure that you can do this on both leads!


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