Changes before Counter Canter, please!

I wanted to spend time this week talking about the flying changes.

It is very common in the United States for trainers to teach counter canter (the horse going right say, but on his left canter lead) before they teach flying changes. 
It is technically classical to teach counter canter first.
But, the reason this was done, is because 200 and 300 years ago, these riders had a very different type of horse to train.

Either they were hot TB types, that canter very straight and needed the counter canter to help them learn to bend, balance and drop the inside hip, before being capable of efficient changes.

Or they were more Spanish and lippizzan types that where very capable, but needed to be connected to the outside hand and inside hip, before being ready to change. 

Today, we have a very different type of horse.
Even our TBs and Spanish horses are modern bred with sport and efficiency in mind. 

So by teaching the counter canter to these horses they get so darn good and comfortable there, it’s tough to teach the change.

I prefer to teach the change first and in turn, teach the horse to wait on the aid.

Rather than tell him not to change for 6 months or a year and then one day say, ok let’s do something I have told you not to do all this time.

Horses naturally change and we should allow them to do so when they are ready.If they offer, never discourage them. Simply show them the aid for the movement and move on.

Once he understands the aids for the change (they do not have to be perfect), you can go and help him improve the counter canter, and get all the benefits from it.Without making your job harder and without confusing him in any way.

Set him up to do the easy thing first and the hard thing as he gets strong. Both will develop together, if he is given a chance to understand, waiting on the aids.

Written by: Emily Abbate

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