Intro to Counter Canter

Interspersed between more field trips, to help re-condition Forrest’s brain that new places and new horses don’t mean he’s about to get loaded into the starting gates, we’ve been continuing our training pretty methodically.

Feeling it’s time to up the ante a bit and continue to develop more strength, balance and improve his canter, I decided this week to ask for a counter canter for the first time.

As usual, my ‘pilot’s pre-flight check list’ is looked over and I make sure I can tick each box before the attempt. Can I maintain a nice, working, canter, in balance, and truly ridden from inside leg into outside rein? Check!

Can I canter a shallow leg yield, say, from quarter line back to the rail, in balance? Check!

Alrighty then! Our prerequisites in place, we taxi for take-off through the short side and attempt a shallow loop, to between quarter line and X and back again. Remembering Kyra Kyrkland’s wonderful tip to use my knees as arrows and point my inside knee exactly where I want to go, so it automatically weights my inside seat bone, I don’t have to worry about falling over the outside of the saddle by mistake, knocking my horse off balance. I guide Forrest’s shoulders with the outside rein, my outside leg back to guard the haunches and driving along with my inside leg, at the girth, away we go:

What a good boy! Now, on the right canter, Forrest isn’t yet quite strong enough to ask for a counter canter, so we finish our ride by simply riding a right canter leg yield and this he manages. A few more of those and he’ll not only be strong enough, but confident enough to give the counter loop a try.

In this hot, soupy weather, better known as a typical southern summer, I keep my rides on Forrest as brief as possible: after warming up at the walk our sessions are never more than a half hour, with two to three walk breaks. Yes, we ride early and the arena has wonderful shade, but the humidity is a killer and I don’t want my horse to start dreading his lessons the same way I did in school: cutting class and going to Dunkin Donuts!