Riding Wisdom – Problems with the Counter-Canter

Kottas On Dressage by Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg (Author), Julie Rowbotham (Contributor), Aug, 2010

A common problem with the Counter-Canter is breaking and the horse becoming disunited (cross-canters).  The usual causes to this is a lack of balance, either from the rider, horse or perhaps both.

  • Rider tension can be the cause.  Try to aid with a relaxed seat and leg.  Sometimes riders become very worried about this exercise, so ride some simple loops until you can sit softly.  Be sure to support your horse with your inside leg, reminding him to stay in the counter-canter.
  • A tense rider can become very hard in their hands causing the canter to break.  You must sit quietly and not disturb your horse by shifting his weight, otherwise it will result in a disunited canter.  When riding the counter-canter on an arc, avoid pulling the outside rein to steer around the turn or circle.  This will unbalance your horse and may cause him to become disunited.
  • Some horses may break when performing the counter-canter around the short end of the arena.  As an aid, begin the arc of your turn well before the corner.  Try to allow plenty of room at all times as this will build confidence in your horse.  If your horse is finding the exercise difficult, ride a larger turn.
  • Your horse may break if he lacks strength in his haunches, especially if you are trying to keep the counter-canter on a circle or around the short end of the arena.  Switch immediately to an easier exercise, giving your horse time to develop power in his hindquarters.  Remember, forcing a weak horse to keep the counter-canter can cause tension and will create problems in the future.

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