Cantering leads

This topic contains 27 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  wanda_funk 1 year, 11 months ago.

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  • Dillon&Jake Original Poster
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 9

    I am having trouble getting my horse to get the right lead. He always gets the left one. I try really hard to give clear cues. I use my outside leg and pick up the inside rein but he either won’t get the correct lead, won’t canter, or turns to the inside. How do I get the right lead?

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    What breed of horse is he, and what seat do you ride? Dressage cues can be different from Western cues. Even dressage and saddle seat riders use different cues to ask for a canter. A long time ago, when I was using a dressage trainer, I was taught inside leg (at the girth) to outside hand for the canter, plus the outside leg behind the girth, and sitting down on your outside seatbone. If I have a horse who won’t pick up the correct canter lead, I circle him away from the rail, and as we complete the circle and are easing back to the rail, I ask for the canter. This usually works.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Will he pick it up on the longe line? All horses can take either lead and do flying changes when free, so generally under saddle the issue is the rider. How is your balance? You should (at least this is how I was taught eons ago) use your outside leg and outside rein when asking for a particular lead. You could try sitting on him while someone else longes him, if he takes the correct lead on the longe, and then incorporate using the signals (begin with no reins and no stirrups). It is possible that he just doesn’t know what you want him to do, or does know but doesn’t care what you want, or your balance does not allow him to do it. Too many “ifs” for anyone to say “do such and such”. Mine resents taking his left lead, even though he is naturally left handed (hoofed?). It has taken nearly a year to get him to pick it up without a hissy fit, but we finally got there. Another method would be to do straight line work, small circles, spirals and figure 8s, incorporating both leads. First, though, I would work on the ground in the barn, just getting him to be equally flexible on both sides (should have said this first). Also, work on lateral movement in both directions. It sounds like a lot, and will take time and patience, but don’t do it for more than 10 minutes in the beginning and increase the time as he gets better and better at it. In the beginning, as soon as he does what you ask, praise and stop. Every experience should be a positive one, or you will just have problems later on. I got my boy to flex his neck to the left by requiring him to bend to reach his peppermint. I am not above bribery, in moderation.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Dillon&Jake Original Poster
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 9

    He is a Quarter horse. I used to ride Western but I ride English now. I tried lunging him but he still wouldn’t pick up the lead. I will try out your advice though. Thanks. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Good luck with him. Western or English, he should know his leads.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Joe-Joe gives wonderful advice–I should have thought of, “have someone else longe him while you’re on his back.” What does he do instead of taking the correct lead? Take the incorrect lead? Canter disunited? Drop back to a trot?

    Not too long ago when I was between horses, I took some dressage lessons to get legged up. There was one particular lesson horse I really loved. He looked like an ASB–nearly 16 hands–but turned out to be an opinionated, 20-year-old Morgan gelding. To canter counter-clockwise, I used dressage cues on him. But going the other direction, I had to use saddle seat/Western cues. Really made my head hurt, but boy was he fun to ride! Made me aware of how much difference leg position, hand position, etc. matter.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  Joan Fry.
    Dillon&Jake Original Poster
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 9

    To answer your question Joan Fry, he will get the incorrect lead, but since he can’t turn well he will drop back to a trot but pick up the canter after a couple of strides. I tried making him go in a small circle so getting the incorrect lead was hard, but he still got it!

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Dillon – I should have first asked if your vet has ruled out any physical reason. Perhaps he really cannot canter comfortably on that lead?

    It is never the horse's fault

    Dillon&Jake Original Poster
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 9

    My dad is my vet. So, yeah, he’s sound. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Lucky you! If I had had any sense eons ago, I would have found one to marry. If there is no physical issue, then it seems to be a question of education. Is there someone who could help you? Some things, one just cannot do alone.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Many years ago I bought a beautiful big (16-3) well proportioned TB mare with lovely gaits except she also arrived with only 1 lead. It took a good bit of time, but she did finally figure out that she had two leads, and that it was more comfortable for her to make turns and circles if she was on the correct lead.

    The first question I would ask would be how are you bending the horse on the small or large circle when you ask for the lead he doesn’t want to pick up? If you are bending his head to the outside, that is telling the horse which lead to pick up as much as which foot you use to ask for the canter. Clearly your horse knows he he is on the wrong lead to circle since he drops out of the wrong lead canter when he has to circle. I was always taught to teach a young horse canter departs in a corner, with the horse’s head bent to the inside, and held on the rail with the riders inside leg.

    Watch him running free in a pasture. Does he only pick up one lead, or can he pick up both without tack & a rider on his back?

    jan_kast
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 26

    I agree that physical discomfort is very possibly the reason for a horse to refuse to take a lead. I understand your Father is a vet, I would encourage exploring the idea that taking that lead is uncomfortable for him

    lauren989 lauren989
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 9

    I’m with the others that say it’s horse discomfort. Have him checked because there is probably something that hurts him when he picks up that lead.

    barrel_racer15 barrel_racer15
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 7

    I used to ride a horse that had the same problem. My trainer always told me to tip his head to the outside making it easier for his inside shoulder to pick up the correct lead. It has worked for me with many horses. Evention has a great video on youtube about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPDPzJelRj4

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    This is one of those times when Western riders and English riders are probably going to disagree, and even dressage & hunt seat riders may disagree. Dressage defines a canter is a 3 beat gait, which starts with the outside hind foot/leg for the first beat, then the diagonal pair of outside front foot/leg together with inside hind for the 2nd “strong” beat and the final 3rd beat is the inside front, which is why when the horse is on the correct lead, the inside shoulder always appears to be in front of the outside shoulder. Dressage theory is that the horse running freely without a rider will pick up the “correct” lead for the circle he plans to make, and can also do an impromptu flying lead change if he then decides to turn the other direction. Therefore, logic dictates that dressage riders will bend the horse to the inside, which tells the horse to prepare for circles to the left or right, depending on which direction the horse is going in the ring. The rider tells the horse which lead to pick up by asking with the outside foot, with the horse bent correctly to the inside. If a horse makes a tight circle on the wrong lead, he can easily be off balance, to the extent of tangling up his feet. Race horses, however, are trained on the track to canter/gallop in only one direction, so when they are retrained to be dressage mounts, teaching them to pick up the other lead can get “interesting”, because the concept of cantering on both leads while carrying a rider simply is not in the horse’s vocabulary. From a dressage standpoint, bending the horse to the outside tells him to prepare to canter on the lead to make balanced circles or tight turns in that direction. If the horse is going to canter counter-clockwise in a ring, the horse can only make balanced turns and circles to the left without running into the fence or being potentially badly off balance. If the horse is going clockwise in a ring, he can also only make circles to the inside, which would be right circles and turns, again, so he doesn’t run into the fence or get his feet tangled up. Which is why in dressage flying changes every stride are always done done down the center line, or on the long side, and counter canter work (cantering on the “wrong” lead for you non-dressage riders) is not done until horse & rider are already adept at the basics.

    That having been said, I have frequently seen hunt seat riders bending the horse’s head to the outside to hold the horse on the outside track, instead of bending the horse correctly to the inside and using the inside leg to hold the horse on the outside track. The part of dressage that first caught my attention was that while my hunt seat teachers had often considered “do X because I’m telling you to do it that way” to be an acceptable explanation, good dressage instructors understand & explain why doing it in a certain way works better than the other way or ways. Every discipline tends to think they have all the answers, but bending the horse to the inside to help the horse pick up the correct lead, and remembering that the first beat is the outside hind, does, at least, have logic and an understanding of how the horse actually moves on its side. I don’t think one could do multiple flying changes every stride with the horse incorrectly bent to the wrong side.

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