How to Introduce the Counter Canter

Ok, let’s talk about counter canter! Counter canter might seem from the outset like it’s just you asking your horse to canter on the wrong lead, but this is a very reductive way of looking at the movement. Counter Canter isn’t asked of us until the end of the First Level, and in its essence, it brings together the skills you’ve learned in the First level and puts them to the test. It’s really a test of the true quality of your canter.

This video shows you how to introduce counter canter and what are the pre-requisites movements that you need to have in place and be executing with ease before you can attempt the counter canter.

  1. Trot Canter Trot. – This is the first pre-requisite for the counter canter. But these transitions need to be almost flawless and very fluid. You need to be able to keep the rhythm and contact in both the trot and canter before starting on counter canter. 
  2. Walk to canter – I like to have my horse working well in walk-canter transitions before executing counter canter. The reason for this is that walk-canter teaches your horse to really sit on their hind end and get their hocks right underneath them.

Once these two transitions are in good condition, you can get started on the counter canter introduction. 

The first thing we do to introduce the counter canter is, on the long side, turn your horse from the rail to the quarter line, and then just go straight. This requires a lot of control from inside leg to outside rein. 

When this gets easier, you can move out to the rail from the quarter line. And as this gets better, you can make the loop deeper. 

To help your horse get more balanced, you can practice shoulder-fore from the rail and back out in counter canter. 

If your horse breaks the counter canter or gets strong or resists in any way, you don’t just go back and drill the counter canter again. You go back to the ordinary canter transitions to improve simple canter, before you come back to the counter canter. 

It’s VERY important to note that in this video, I have been working for a number of months with Leo, the horse I’m riding. So the progress you see is not to be expected in one session!

Counter canter is a move that demands a lot of balance and strength from your horse, so as you ride it and feel this, it’s important to try and support them through half halts and keep the right position to prevent them from falling out of the counter canter. 

To keep the counter canter in place, you need to keep the outside leg back and stay sitting on the outside seat bone. 

Take a look at the video where I demonstrate all of this with Leo and also challenge him with a full half-circle in counter canter, and let me know in the comments if you find it helpful. 

Thanks for watching and happy riding.

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