Trying to establish cc in a 20m wide arena can be quite problematical, especially for a big-striding horse which ideally needs more room when learning this difficult exercise. Of course it’s better if you can establish the idea of counter-canter in a big field with good footing, but not many of us have that luxury at the moment!
Having once watched someone trying to teach a young horse to counter canter by coming across the diagonal to A in true canter, and then try to execute a 10m 1/2 circle in counter canter (which did not work AT ALL, repeatedly… surprise surprise, poor horse was totally flummoxed and being asked the impossible!) I realised that not everyone always thinks about the basic mechanics of the space the young horse needs to perform certain exercises!
This way gives you more than 20m diameter on the loop, and even another 5 metres can really help a young horse. The ‘arena’ in the diagram is to a 20×40 ratio.
This exercise can be performed from either direction, but it’s probably easier to start from true canter at first, as striking off in counter-canter can be confusing for youngsters. It is great for suppleness and obedience, and to improve the canter.
At the Hartpury IEF, top dressage judge Isobel Wessels described counter-canter as an movement that “is ugly, but is important. It’s all about straightness.”