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  • Counterbending

    I competed in a DT a few weeks back and one comment from the dressage judge was counter bending during a trot on the rail and during a circle. Is this something that I need to take back to ground driving to develop correctness? Yesterday I practiced at a walk while driving my donkey and I often lost the bend. I found myself confused on where to use my whip- my gut said use it on the inside of the circle while tapping with the inside rein. Then I wondered if I should be using the whip her on the outside while taping the inside rein.

    I had been aware of this while preparing for the event and "hoped" it was happening at home because she was bending towards the barn. However, it happened during competition. I am doing a driving clinic in a week and will bring it up there but would appreciate any ideas before hand.

  • #2
    Your initial thought of inside rein and whip is correct to create bend. Just don't throw away your outside rein.

    A lot of equines (pretty much all in the early stages of their education) will naturally want to counterbend as it is easier to dump around on your inside shoulder than to lift and carry through the turn. You can work it in the cart, though you might find it easier on both of you to start in-hand.

    First you want to be sure that you can ask for a bend without taking a step. You're really just looking for inside flexion, if s/he gives you more, great, if not ask until you do. And to clarify, you don't grab the rein and pull the head around, you close your fist, release, close fist, move hand slightly, release, close fist, move fist, bump ontop of pressure (not a slack and then jerk, ALWAYS have contact before bumping off of the pressure) etc. If he moves, hold the contact until he stops his feet and gives to the pressure, grabbing a bit of mane or tack, or holding your fist against the shoulder can help steady your hand.

    Next you ask for the shoulder to move away from you. Once he (or she) gets it from both sides at the halt build up to the walk. Slight flexion while moving straight, then asking the shoulder to move away from you. When this is good I would move on to long lines or go back in the cart.

    Now asking for proper bend isn't about pushing the shoulder out, but when the tendency is to the counterbend the shoulder is usually pushing in so you go to the other extreme for a moment to find the happy medium. Ideally you should be able to ask for the bend while driving by flexing to the inside and touching the ribcage, but ideals don't always happen! You might also find a tendency for the hip to hang to the inside of the turn, but basically whatever body part is not on the proper track that is where you would touch for the correction, whether it is the hip, shoulder, or ribs You can have the hip and shoulders where they are supposed to be and the ribcage be bowed to the inside, but this is rare and unlikely as this is what we ask for when we purposefully counter bend and they are unlikely to do it randomly on their own!

    Good luck and have fun!


    • Original Poster

      Thank you, thank you!!! This helps so much!!!


      • #4
        You're welcome! Is this your donkey you drive? I'll be interested to hear how he does and how the clinic goes for you two.

        ​​​I need to post about the mini donkey I've been working with. She's been fun.


        • Original Poster

          Yes, it is my 6 year old Jenny. We competed in a driving trial (dressage & cones) last month and she was a rock star. That scratched my itch to improve details.

          Do share how your mini donkey is doing!