Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Counter Canter

Short periods of counter canter, such as the shallow counter canter loop in first level test four are best when teaching a horse counter canter. A more advanced exercise that Karen Brown taught me with Delphi is as follows:
Say you're in left canter. Make a smallish (fifteen meter) circle to the left in the left canter lead while doing left flexions to the inside and right counter flexions to the outside to establish a soft, obedient connection. Once the flexions are established and the horse is obedient they can be small: as you half halt with your seat, lower your elbow on the side you're flexing toward and "raise" the rein "out" to create the flexion. (I use quatation marks here because the movement should be obvious to the horse but through training eventually become so subtle that they are invisible to the casual observer on the ground.) Especially on a green horse, be sure to maintain a clear left canter aid with your seat and legs by sitting into the saddle with the normal swing and jump of the canter and keeping your left leg at the girth to create left bend and impulsion and keeping your right leg behind the girth to maintain the hindquarters and impulsion. (Emphasis on "impulsion!") As you cross the centerline, keep the well defined left canter cues with your seat and legs, all the while maintaining your flexions and counter flexions as you turn to the right. Turn and look to the right (but keep your left lead aids) as you begin a larger (20 meter) circle to the right in left lead counter canter. Be sure to continue the flexions during the entire movement to keep the poll and jaw soft and the horse obedient. As you again cross the centerline, straighten the horse and then ride forward back into the smaller circle to the left in left lead canter. You basically make a figure of eight in canter. This also allows you to practice the three loop serpentine in second level test one if you only have a small twenty by forty meter arena for schooling!