Training Tip – Counter Canter to help your changes.

I thought it would be nice to share a little exercise I find useful if you have a horse that gets a little eager and excited about doing changes. (As I found I had earlier this week)

Once the horse has established changes they often start to anticipate and lose focus on the rider. This is a good way to get them listening. Important that the change aid is well understood for these two exercises.

Firstly I always make sure I can ask to get whatever canter lead I would like anywhere in the arena, keeping the horse as straight as possible. Also off the wall so I more easily can feel if the horse is drifting off to one side. Once I feel this works well I will ask a few simple changes (through walk) On the three quarter line and through the diagonal.

What I always look for in all my work is softness, thoroughness, suppleness, reaction,impulsion and straightness.

Now if your horse gets a little to over excited and starts taking over these two exercises might be useful.

1. Pick up counter canter on a straight line. Stay in the counter canter til you feel it is in a good balance and both you and your horse feels comfortable. Go down the three quarter line and ask for a change. Where you would ask, depends on your horse. If I have a horse who gets tenser and tenser down the long side then I will ask very close off the corner. If I have a horse who has a tendency to want to run away or elongate in the change I will ask very close to the corner before the shortside so the wall acts like a visual brake. I would also sometimes ask for the change on the shortside, for the same reason. Make sure to do the exercise in both directions.


Pick up counter canter on a 20m circle. Make sure to remember my golden rule. Also I like to think that the counter canter should feel as well balanced as normal canter before I start doing anything else, even on a circle. I will then change the rein and go to the other 20 m circle and ask for a change over X. So you go from counter canter to counter canter. I find this helps the horses find an inner relaxation and they start waiting for our questions, instead of anticipating them. I will also break up the pattern by sometimes not change or throw in a simple change. You want a horse that is waiting, not anticipating.

I would love to hear how you get on if you decide to try it out 😍

Happy Training

Ancha XO


Author: Take The Reins Equestrian Training

Freelance instructor and rider working in the equine industry in Norway and the UK. with a dream of inspiring people along their journeys❤

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