dog & horse books: breeding, training, showing, judging, performance
TEACHING THE COUNTERBEND
Laurie Truskauskas is a popular author of training articles and books. Laurie works with all types of horses at her Silvercreek Stables, having learned under the mentoring of Joe Ferro, a highly respected trainer of both reiners and jumping horses. Laurie is frequently praised for writing useable, easy to understand training lessons. One of the basic maneuvers she uses when training any type of horse is the counterbend. Try it on your favorite mount.
“Once a horse reaches the stage where he will move three or four steps in response to leg pressure, you can begin to teach him to counterbend. For this exercise, you will ask him to arc his body in the opposite direction from that in which you want him to move. For example, tip his head to the right by using a right direct rein so that you can see the corner of his right eye. Now push him to the left with your right leg. He should be bent around your right leg with his spine bent in the shape of a “C,” looking to the right, yet he will move diagonally forward to the left in response to your right leg at the girth (see the photos for a visual example). Accomplishing this at a jog is sometimes easier than at a walk, although in time he should perform the maneuver at a walk, jog, and lope. It may take from two to four months to teach a horse to be really responsive to your legs and perform the counterbend at all gaits.
"I teach this exercise to every horse that I train, whether they are headed for a life as a reiner, a hunter, a Western pleasure horse, or a trail horse. A reining horse must learn this cue before you can teach him to spin or to roll back, and to correct his circles if he begins to drift. If your trail horse is not approaching the center point of an obstacle, you can use your leg to move his entire body toward the center of the obstacle. On occasion, you may need to push a horse’s hip in one direction or the other so that his approach to an obstacle is straight. In a rail class, rather than overtly reining your horse in or out away from the rail, you can use leg-pressure cues to ask him to move over. It will make you look more polished than if you steer your horse in big, sweeping turns in and out away from the rail.
“As you gain control of your horse’s hip and shoulders, you will be able to put your horse in almost any position that you choose. Remember that it takes time for a horse to understand these new cues. Don’t rush your horse through this training. The result will be a movable, supple, well-trained horse.”