Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: State College, PA
There could be a million reasons why he's not picking up the right lead. Some horses are naturally balanced and see no reason to have two leads when one will suffice. You may be asking him wrong or bending him wrong as you ask for it. And if you don't know the correct leads are you sure he's on the wrong one?
First, the correct lead always starts with the outside hind, the diagonal pair and the inside fore. The horse should rock back on the outside hind to start and end up reaching a little farther with the inside foreleg. This being said, when they are on the correct lead it usually just looks "right" and the wrong lead usually looks "wrong". Unless the horse's movement has been altered whether through training or injury. Then it gets tricky.
Second, where do you lunge? In a round pen, in a field, in a ring, etc. My guess is that when you ask for the canter you don't make him maintain the bend, instead you kind of chase him into it and he inadvertently starts out on a relatively straight area instead of on the circle. Assuming this then you have two problems.
Problem 1 is that you should not be chasing him around he should be moving away from you. SO you might need to go back to basics or if he's just being lazy get a longer whip. Don't beat him with it, but if you need to tap him with it a few times and make him respect you then do it. He needs to learn to move away with haste when you ask him. He should not ignore your aid to go faster, but you need to be very specific about it as well. I would suggest getting someone knowledgeable out to help you if you need it because this is an important aspect of lunging.
Problem 2 is that my guess is you are inadvertently bending him the wrong way so he can't get that lead. Some horses do better when bent to the inside, some to the outside. When he picks up the canter does he fall in to the center or does he fall to the outside?
If a horse falls in then they have nowhere to go but outside or fall over. If a horse runs out the shoulder it means you're bending the head to the outside but not bending the body to the inside to counter-bend so you're just steering him that direction.
I would suggest first on the lunge after he's good at picking up the canter then you can worry about leads. I would also suggest lunging him in a round pen or near a corner in a fence. They will both not allow him to run out the outside shoulder, he will have to move upright instead of leaning out and that will help you establish the lead. If he can't go to the outside, inside is the only option and if you time it right then he will understand.
You want to ask as the horse enters the corner so that he is really bent and has his head a little tilted in. If you ask for too much bend then he will get the wrong lead though, so either head/neck straight or a few inches of bend. No more. This should get you the right lead a few times. Praise him when he gets it, and ask again when he doesn't. But don't keep asking him repeatedly if he doesn't pick it up. Ask and reward if he does it right, or ask for the trot again if he does it wrong. Then get him calm and ask again when you reach the corner or when he's settled in a roundpen.
Since he doesn't know anything about leads then he won't automatically understand. You need to repeat this many times and reward only the good leads but don't punish for the wrong ones. This goes the same for under saddle, trot into a corner put a little pressure on the inside for bend and ask for the canter. Same principles apply as in lunging, reward the good lead and let him canter for a lap or two. If he gets the wrong lead, let him go a few strides then bring him back to a trot and settle him. When he's settled ask again in a corner. Repeat until its second nature to him.
Also, you have to develop a feel for wrong leads but you can cheat and look at the inside shoulder to start if you are riding alone. If that leg is reaching out a little farther and the canter feels good then you are on the right lead. DO not rely on this forever though, learn to feel it. And don't lean to look, just glance down a second and back up because it can throw your balance off and confuse your horse. The best thing to do is have a spotter on the ground and you can say right or wrong, and they can tell you if you're right or wrong.
If you are having trouble getting your aids right I would suggest taking lessons or riding a well trained horse that can teach you the right way to ask for a canter.
Last edited by NittanyEquestrian; 10-02-2009 at 10:56 AM.