How To Train Counter Canter

Learn how to train counter canter in dressage and how it impacts the training of other movements later on.

Discover how to train counter canter and why it is great for developing straightness in the canter and building strength too. It’s also a key building block before introducing changes later on in your horses training.

In her online masterclass program, Vanessa Way runs us through how she uses counter canter and where she begins when introducing it to her younger or green horses.

How To Train Counter Canter

Why train counter canter?

In the official ESNZ New Zealand dressage tests 2019 we start to see counter canter appear from novice level with the introduction of shallow loops down the long side of the arena.

This is then moved to full three loop serpentines in elementary level which later turns into simple changes and then flying changes further down the road.

Whether you compete or not, the purpose of the counter canter is about developing more balance, suppleness and straightness in the horse.

What is counter canter?

According to the FEI dressage handbook the counter canter must be executed in collection.

The horse canters in correct sequence with the outside foreleg leading with positioning to the side of the leading leg. The foreleg should be aligned to the same track as the hind leg.

Aim of the counter canter is :

  • To improve the balance and collection of the canter and to increase attention to the riders aids

Essentials of the counter canter :

  • The quality of the canter
  • The straightness
  • The obedience to the aids
  • The accuracy of riding the figures and turns.

Common mistakes in counter canter

The biggest mistake often shown is too much bend to the outside and not enough balance created through the turns.

Without correct positioning of the body, this makes the movements hard to perform and pulls the horses footprints off the same line.

Before introducing the movement

It’s important that you can find nice balance in your canter and ideally be able to move within different speeds of your canter.

For example you can adjust your horses canter speed around the school of the arena and show more medium canter and then back to a more collected canter.

If the horses canter is too big and too fast it will lose balance easily, so the ability to be able to find a nice balanced collected canter initially will help set you up for success.

Training counter canter

Start with small shallow loops off the long side of the arena, coming in approx 2-3 metres off the track without the horse losing any rythme or control.

Then once you feel you can maintain the balance in the shallow loops build this up to 5m and then 10m over time.

Eventually as your horse builds more strength and stability over the coming weeks and months you can move to full loops and creating a serpentine through the arena. Then move onto doing it through the short side from a change in diagonal across the arena.

Mastering your dressage with Vanessa Way

Within Vanessa Way’s series ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements’ she runs you through step by step how she introduces canter canter to her horses. See first hand what to expect, how to overcome obstacles and how to improve your marks doing counter canter in a dressage test.

Below is a video snippet from her program.

We hope you find this useful. Get access to the full video plus over 4 hours of Vanessa’s teaching with her online training program ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements.’

Want to learn more? Check out these articles.

How to do flying changes

Centre lines and halts

Learn how to improve your canter walk transitions

Check out all of Vanessa’s online programs here

Want to improve your dressage riding off your horse?

Check out our sister site

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