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By AQHA Director of Judges Patti Carter
Note: This article from the Journal archives was written in 2006, before Patti Carter accepted her new responsibilities as AQHA's director of shows.
The counter-canter is a balanced lope (or canter) on one lead while the horse is traveling in a curve in the opposite direction. There should be no change in rhythm or stride, and the horse should be bent toward the lead, not the curve.
For the basic counter-canter, he’ll have flexion in the direction of the lead. If he’s on the left lead, he’ll flex or bend to the left. In a counter-canter, you want the horse to maintain that flexion in the direction of the lead, while traveling in the opposite direction.
Good conformation in a horse starts with structure and balance. An expert in equine conformation shows the ideals in Quarter Horse conformation.
“Balance is the framework that you build everything on,” says Dr. Jim Heird, AQHA past president, who served as an AQHA judge from 1977 to 2015, taught other AQHA judges and the college judging team he coached in the past.
Whether it is for performance or breeding, good balance and conformation play an important role. Faults and poor structure can often lead to health issues later in a horse’s career or adversely affect progeny. That is why it is important for horse owners to recognize balance and quality structure in their own horses and in prospective horses.
First things first, before talking about structure, you have to talk about balance.