Horse won't pick up left lead! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-22-2009, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Question Horse won't pick up left lead!

I have been having a problem with my horse when it comes to picking up the left lead. She will canter, but she always starts on the right one. I'm pretty sure that she can do it, because she has done it before. I'm starting to think that she does it on purpose because she knows I will bring her back to a trot and try again and eventually after a long time of cantering then trotting we have to take a break because I am so tired out. She will pick it up properly right away if another horse is cantering in front of her because she likes to follow them (bad habit, I know), that's why I think she does picks up the wrong lead on purpose sometimes. Does anyone have any suggestions? It gets very frustrating and tiring sometimes.
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-22-2009, 10:58 PM
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How are you asking her to canter?

I find this to be the most helpful method:

Get to a slow, relaxed, sitting trot and ride along the rail. I find its best to ask for canter at a corner. So as you approach the corner, (for getting left lead) slide your right leg back behind girth, and left leg a bit forward and do voice command (click, kiss, etc). Give with your inside rein, to allow the horse's left leg to lead the motion of the canter.

If your horse DOESN'T pick it up right away, chances are she will start doing a really fast trot, since you have already pushed her forward when asking for canter. As well chances are you will be unbalanced and unsteady. So instead of asking right away again, go back to a nice sit trot again, or, come fully back to walk and THEN go back up to sit trot to ask for canter. It's much better to ask for an upward transition when the gait you are in is controlled in itself.

If your horse picks up the WRONG LEAD, apply half-halt, sit back and ask for the trot again. Trot around for a few strides and collect yourself, getting back a nice, even pace. As you approach the corner, ask again. Make sure not to hold back your horse with your reins. Open up your seat and give with your inside rein, allowing for forward movement. You might even want to move into a half-seat position.

Once you get the canter, ride it out, relaxed and balanced and then come back to walk. Sometimes its nice to end with a cantering circle before coming back to walk. Always finish off well, with a smooth transition down to trot or walk ... always praise when she gets your cues.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

*Oh, and also -- she may be acting lazy and dropping her left shoulder, making the canter sloppy and uneven, resulting in the wrong lead. When you feel her heavy on the forehand and dropping her left shoulder, "pick up" her shoulder with your inside rein, bringing it up towards you, and bump her with your inside leg.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Last edited by Jubilee Rose; 03-22-2009 at 11:02 PM.
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-24-2009, 07:38 AM
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Here are my two suggestions that have always helped me get the correct lead on a tough horse in the past.

Make your cues clear and SIMPLE. Go back to basics and don't complicate things. Where does your inside leg go? On the girth. Where does your outside leg go? Behind the girth. Which way should your horse be bending? To the inside. Now that you have all that down, start by establishing a bend at a smooth trot. Wait for a corner. When your horse is bending to the inside, it's more natural for her to pick up the inside lead. If you're asking her to canter without a bend, how is she supposed to know you want the inside lead? To her, it's just as if you were cantering outside the ring ans she could pick up whichever lead she wanted. So, make sure you establish a bend before asking for the canter.

Now firmly and purposely, deliver your cues. Start with pressure from your outside leg and go from there. You can't just kick her up into a canter. You'll end up destroying your bend and your pace and you'll only get a frenzied trot or a wrong lead. Ask, then tell. Make your cues clear and simple.

Circle. If she's not getting the point, steer her in a tight circle. Make it big enough so you don't lose your pace, but tight enough to really bend her. As you're coming off the circle on the rail, give your cues and ask her to canter. Encorporate what I said above... clear and simple cues.

Hope this helps!

Every ride, good or bad, teaches you something new.
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-24-2009, 07:55 PM
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Jubilee Rose said exactly the same as I would when it comes to how to ask for the canter. And do the exact opposite for the other lead. Your horse can pick up the left lead. The horse has just came to favor the right lead and therefore it is harder to canter on the left because those muscles arent as strong. Make sure your cues are straight forward and there is no confusion.

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post #5 of 7 Old 03-25-2009, 01:23 AM
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First of all, make sure there isn't something that is making it physically difficult for her to pick up the left lead. If a horse doesn't pick up a certain lead it's not on purpose to get out of work (all of that cantering on the wrong lead and trotting over and over again is not fun or easy for her), almost always it's either 1) lack of muscle 2) lack of balance 3) pain. Rule out pain before you do anything else. Then figure out, how balanced is she at the trot to the left? I would be willing to bet that trotting to the left isn't quite as strong or balanced as she is to the right. Lots of circles, serpentines, transitions, bending, etc. Get her (and you!) very very fit at the trot and light to your aides. On a horse that can't get a lead, I think it's easiest to ask from the corner, or better on a horse like her, from a circle. Circle at the trot, and as you're coming off the circle cue her to canter (like everyone posted above, make sure that your cues are correct). If she picks up the wrong lead make her canter a circle on the wrong lead (make it big, esp if she's unbalanced). It will be uncomfortable for her. Then when your big circle is finished bring her back to a nice trot circle (don't feel like you have to rush), then calmly ask her to canter again out of the circle. Wrong lead? circle on the wrong lead. When she picks up the correct lead make a big fuss about it, lots of pats, etc and circle her on the correct lead. So often (after that many uncomfortable circles on the wrong lead) they go "ahhh... this is so much more more comfortable and easier on the correct lead!". After you finish off your circle let her walk and rest, again, lots of praise.

Last edited by upnover; 03-25-2009 at 01:25 AM.
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post #6 of 7 Old 03-25-2009, 10:36 AM
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THANK YOU for posting that Upnover! I went through everyone elses responses, and not one mentioned lack of balance, lack of muscle, lack of strength.

Great post! I really cannot add more to what you've already said.

YES - the riders ques are ever so important, but if a horse doesn't pick up a certain lead, chances are *if the cues are not clear* that the horse is not prepared physcially to do so.

I would never ask for a canter while on a strait line. Always ask for a canter while bending in a corner. Strait, balance, rhythm, bend the ribs, 1/2 halt, proper cues.

Timing is also very important! You have to time your cues in accordance to the hind hoof falls.

What is your body doing? Your seat? Your outside leg? Inside leg? Your seat bones? Are you unablanced? Where is your weight being dispursed in the saddle? Could you be unbalancing your horse?


I would love to see a video if I possibly could :)

Last edited by MIEventer; 03-25-2009 at 10:40 AM.
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post #7 of 7 Old 03-25-2009, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by dynamite. View Post
I have been having a problem with my horse when it comes to picking up the left lead.
Do you only try under saddle? Have you lunged her to see if she picks it up correctly?

Saddle fit can interfere with the ability to reach forward. Riders can block leads too.
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