Many years ago - I'm talking back in the 90's, I was in search for a new reining coach. With there being no one locally that I wanted to go to, I became frustrated. And so I opened my mind to accept different ideas and kept searching.
I read many horse magazines and one day, I noticed an ad with a website about horse training tapes. Western trainers were starting to come out with VHS training tapes of their "secrets". I was intrigued.
I bought tapes from people like Larry Rose, Tim McQuay, Heroes and Friends Series with Bob Avila and also Larry Trocha. These became what I call my Internet Mentors. My first version of tapes from Clinton Anderson were in VHS format as well. Shawn Flarida's may have been with DVDs. I now no longer felt like I was
stuck since travelling states-side was not really an viable option.
Discovering the Counter Canter:
I was watching Bob Avila's exercises on counter cantering and I remember a really funny story that he told about a conversation he had with a little rider at one of his clinics. Bob was demonstrating his counter canter exercises when this little rider came up to him and said: "Excuse me Mr. Avila. Did you know that you're on the wrong lead." I couldn't help laughing with Bob's laughter and facial expressions as he recounted the story.
I had traditionally thought that way as well. I knew that being on the wrong lead was something we had to fix right away or be embarrassed. Ridiculed even.
It was revolutionary for me at the time to discover that trainers were doing it on purpose and it had so many good benefits. Picture me being blown away by what I was seeing. Just Wow. That was a good day.
Rather than listing the benefits here which would just be repeating many others, I will refer you to the internet on the how's and why's.
America's Horse Daily has an article here about it. There are photos as well.
I don't have a good photo to post here, so imagine a horse reverse arcing in a circle at the lope on the wrong lead.
Here's another article titled, "Count on Counter Canter" at Horse&Rider with Bob Avila.
Counter cantering really improved my riding skills tremendously. It definitely went up a notch. I did it thinking it would improve my accuracy of my lead changes. It definitely did. I felt more confident. My horse was more balanced and we were able to do a great, difficult skill.
I would recommend using draw reins or a german martingale when doing the exercise. It helps the rider to concentrate on getting the horse to counter canter easily and not having to work on the face at the same time. Makes this easier for everyone.
My Counter-Canter Funny:
Sometime after I had become proficient at the counter canter, I was observing what riders were doing for warm up at a reining show. One of the first coaches I ever had started talking about their warm up program and I was interested in hearing how it had changed since I was their student.
I joined the conversation and mentioned about doing figure 8s and loping on the wrong lead for the 2nd loop or circle. The former coach jumped in to insult me and said: "oh because you don't know you're on the wrong lead." and I said "no", I wanted to counter canter. I was elated to see the look of surprise and bewilderment on the former coach's face. My decision to move on was a good thing.
Putting my spin on doing the wrong thing right!