How to tell what lead you are on when cantering? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 08:56 PM Thread Starter
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How to tell what lead you are on when cantering?

I've been taking riding lessons for about half a year. I'm comfortable with w/t/c. When cantering I can't tell if I'm on the wrong lead. I have done research on the internet this past week learning all about the canter. From my understanding, if I'm on the left lead I'm going left. When cueing for a left lead canter I know to put my right foot slightly behind the girth and squeeze with both legs. This will push out the right hind, then the left hind and right fore move forward with the left fore leading.

Then I went and watched youtube videos. I can tell what lead the horse is on by watching, but I don't know how I will be able to tell when I'm on the horse. If I cue the horse correctly, he should be on the correct lead. But sometimes I find myself on the wrong one and my instructor tells me to drop it and start again. I want to be able to tell without my instructor telling me. Any tips with this?

And another question.. about something totally different. I got to ride bareback for the first time on my last lesson. I walked around for a bit and then trotted. I felt balanced, but I wasn't sure what to do with my legs. I just let them hang loosely when walking, but I kind of wrapped my legs around the horse when trotting. My heels definitely weren't down like they are with stirrups. So what is the proper leg postition when trotting bareback?

Oh and just to let you all know, I ride Western if that makes a difference. Sorry for making two threads in this section within the past few's just that I want to impress my instructor on my riding lesson tomorrow. Thank yah to anyone that replies!
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post #2 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 09:02 PM
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If you let your hips completely relax and let your pelvis move with the horse you will find that one of your legs will be slightly more foward than your other leg. So, if your horse is on the right lead, your right thigh/knee will be more forward than your left. That is the easiest way I can tell. You shouldn't even have to look down to see, you should just feel your body position.
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post #3 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 09:10 PM
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I know that looking down when you are riding is supposedly a huge no-no, but you can glance down at his shoulders for a stride or two and you'll be able to see that one shoulder is farther forward than the other. Whichever shoulder is forward is the lead that he's on. The ability to just feel when you're on the wrong lead will come with time and experience. If you can focus on what the horse's movement feels like when you're on the wrong lead before the instructor tells you to try again and then compare it to the feel of the movement when you get the correct lead. The incorrect lead is usually much rougher, harder to sit, and feels very unbalanced.

Eventually, you will get to the point when you can feel which lead you're on, even when you're loping a straight line. Just take your time and focus on feeling the horse's movement. The rest will come .

Whenever I ride bareback, I just let my legs hang wherever is most comfortable for me. I normally don't wrap my legs because the way my horses are trained, that is a cue to go faster. I normally end up with them hanging and my toes pointed down because that's how I'm comfortable and secure.

Keep in mind though that I never really had a proper lesson. The way I ride is likely not the "proper" way to do it.
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post #4 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 09:15 PM
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Yes to both "cheater" ways of telling--feel for the forward leg and glance down and shoulder (and also leading leg). A third cheater method is to just relax for a bit and and let your torso follow the horse's motion. Your belly button will pull to the lead your horse is on.
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post #5 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 09:18 PM
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Oh, and when I ride bareback, I oddly feel most safe, secure, and balanced with my heels jammed down in an exaggerated position. I grip with my thighs and balance by extending or flexing my knees, bringing my legs down or up to redistribute my weight.

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post #6 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 10:44 PM
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I see pictures of Native American riders and they just let their legs hang down with the toe falling into a downward pointing position.
Not sure how I'd do it, as I very rarely ride bareback anymore. I am just too much of a wuss.
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post #7 of 16 Old 11-01-2011, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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I feel like such an idiot right now. It would make sense that my hip would move more forward on the side the horse is leading on.. Thank you guys for the explanations. Maybe tomorrow lesson, I will be able to tell. My last lesson didn't go as well as I hoped, so I really want to be able to do something right. I don't want my instructor thinking that I'm wasting her time.

So for bareback riding, I'm just not going to worry about my leg position(unless my instructor mentions it). I guess it's just depends on the way you balance.

At tinyliny: It' funny, because I felt a lot more safe without a saddle. Though, I have a fear of my foot getting stuck in the stirrup so that might be why. My saddle has also slipped off before, so that kind of freaked me out. And I've gotten hurt by the saddle horn one too many times, plus getting hanged by my hoodie off of it. haha The saddle tries to kill me.
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post #8 of 16 Old 11-02-2011, 08:33 PM
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So long as you are trying and wanting to learn, then you are not wasting her time and she knows that. Some folks catch on quickly, others take a bit longer. Don't pressure yourself too hard because then you'll get stressed out and tense and everything will get harder and take longer.
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post #9 of 16 Old 11-02-2011, 09:50 PM
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Don't feel like an idiot. I didn't know much about leads or how to tell until my mare decided to lope very sloppily one day and I literally fell in the direction of whichever lead she was on. Say she was on her right lead, my right leg would go very forward, along with most of my body and my left leg would slide back. I'm sure I looked just fantastic. I would have rather just looked down and noticed it than falling all over myself.
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post #10 of 16 Old 11-02-2011, 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Poseidon View Post
I literally fell in the direction of whichever lead she was on.

Good way of explaining it.
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