I call it the CCCC exercise.
When I read about trainers saying to do your homework, this is what they mean. It made such a big difference to my lead change success when I really worked on my counter cantering. If I got it to be calm and collected - the horse was very happy doing it, then my lead changes were more successful. I like to work many months on this.
I found that by working on each of these prep exercises/skills, the lead change was more enjoyable for me and the horse. I gotta warn you! You will get sore thighs when you first start this and so will your horse! Especially when you have to use your inside leg to keep the horse on the wrong lead in the counter canter circle. It gets better though as you get used to it.
So to refresh your memory, once you've done the other prep exercises: Nailing your lead departure, loping calmly on the correct lead, Hip In, and the Cigar (2-Tracking)Exercise, you will be ready for the counter canter. One manageable step at a time.
|Western style german martingale|
I'll tell you here how to get started and what to look for to know when you're ready to add the lead change to the counter canter. Let's get started!
Introducing the Counter Canter in a Figure 8
To introduce the counter canter, you want to check to make sure your horse consistently does a correct lead departure and can make correct, calm lope circles in one half of your figure 8. Let's call that the bottom half. Done. The other half will be for the counter canter. We'll call that the top half.
Next, when you come to the center of the figure 8, your outside leg will become your inside leg as you lope around the top half of the figure 8 on the wrong lead. Keep that inside leg on your horse! Don't worry about the head, the german martingale will take care of that for you!
The horse might try to break to a trot, stutter stepping, dancing or whatever - it's ok, just keep going. Ride. Ride. Ride. After you've completed this first counter canter circle, go back to the bottom half of the figure 8 but now you will be on the correct lead again. This becomes a reward for the horse. You can practise your hip-in exercise in these bottom half circles as well. You can throw in a 2-tracking exercise to calm things down, if need be.
In the photo above, I'm watching Clinton Anderson in his lead change dvd initiate the counter canter in the middle of his figure 8. If your horse should stop, no problem. Just start again at the bottom half of the figure 8, get calm circles and ask for the counter canter again.
Calm, Collected Counter Canter (CCCC)
One counter canter circle to start, will turn into many. And in both directions. Why do we teach a horse to counter canter calmly? When we work on lead changes, it encourages the horse to change leads into the correct lead where it feels more comfortable. So changing leads becomes a reward for the horse. The counter canter makes it easy for the horse to understand this.
Signs that you know you are performing a counter canter calmly and correctly (which means you're ready to add a lead change in the counter canter circle):
1. The horse is soft, relaxed and confident. The horse is happy doing the counter canter.
2. The horse is not chargy, nervous or upset.
3. The horse isn't pulling on your hands. Or taking off. The horse is getting calmer, not worse.
4. The horse isn't changing gaits. Smooth and balanced.
5. The horse isn't doing an unscheduled lead change.
Next time, I will talk about doing a lead change in the counter canter figure 8 circle. It's just adding another piece.
Putting my spin on the calm, collected counter canter.