Help with canter leads - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 6 Old 07-09-2013, 01:22 AM Thread Starter
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Help with canter leads

I have recently started riding an ex barrel racer and cantering on the left rain she is perfect, spot on transition. But to the right she really struggles to pick up the correct canter lead then she gets all flustered with the constant trot canter trot canter. I've tried it on small circles and she still gets the wrong lead. Tried over exaggerating the aids she still gets it wrong. Anyone have any tips on how I can correct her?
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post #2 of 6 Old 07-09-2013, 08:26 AM
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Hi! Welcome to the Horse Forum.

It does little good to just start over and over and over. Horses have a problem with one lead because they have a problem with stiffness or with proper position of a certain part of their body. You also need to make sure the horse does not have a lameness or soreness issue.

Instead of just starting her over, why don't you try getting her more flexible and get her yielding better to leg pressure and rein pressure?

I would start by teaching her to yield better to the bit and to become more flexible in her body position. Using a snaffle (two or three piece), ask her to lower her head, bend at the poll and slightly tuck her chin. When she is soft in her face, start asking for increasingly smaller circles at the jog, particularly to the right. Pay a lot of attention to her head, neck and body position. When circling to the right, you should be able to barely see the corner of her right eye. She should follow her nose well enough that you do not have to pull steady on the right rein. When you do pull on the right side of her mouth, her weight and energy automatically goes into her left shoulder and she will take the outside lead as she moves into a canter.

Build flexibility in her body by teaching her leg yielding exercises. This means you gradually get her whole body to bend to the right using your right rein and your right leg to push her ribs out. I like to track to the left, make a half circle to the left and then push the horse back out to the track with my right leg until the horse is back on the original track but now tracking to the right. I start these leg yielding exercises from about the 4th of 5th ride on a colt.

When the horse 'yields' to the rider's right leg and moves willingly out to the left, ribs first, the rider and horse is ready to learn to yield to the riders left (outside) leg placed further back than the inside leg that is asking for the ribs to move out. This outside leg starts asking the horse to bend its whole body by bringing its hip to the right. So, you will have the horse's head bent slightly to the right, your inside (right) leg is pushing at the girth to push the horses ribs and shoulders slightly out to the left and your outside (left) leg is asking the horse to keep its hind quarters in and following its front feet and nose. [This body control exercise also stops a horse from dropping its inside shoulder.]

When you can attain this kind of body control of the horse, ALL lead problems will completely disappear in a sound horse that is not hurting somewhere.

Something else plays into getting the lead you ask for, particularly in a green horse; that is the place that you ask for it.

If you jog a big circle, you are much more likely to get the inside lead if you ask for it in the far corner of an arena when you jog toward that corner. This is where you know the horse would rather go to the other side nearer to the gate, the barn or his friends. When we lope green horses that do not have all of the body control of an older horse, this is how we get the correct lead almost 100% of the time, Then, as the horse gets more 'broke' and we have more body control, we can start asking for the correct lead and getting it anywhere in the arena including the near side of the arena and the straight side where there is no curve or circle to help us.
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post #3 of 6 Old 07-09-2013, 09:31 AM
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Lateral work :) Get that side moving better, especially the hips, where the canter starts. If she's been running barrels it's possible she's only ran one direction or at least ran one direction most of the time.

Turns on the forehand, leg yields, side passes etc will get the hips under her where they belong.

You may have to hold you leg on her to help her hold the lead for a while until she gets comfortable holding it.

It's all in the hips, if you don't get the hips together you're just kind of hoping all the stars align to get the lead right.
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post #4 of 6 Old 07-09-2013, 10:00 AM
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Once you have the leg yields going nicely, I like to ride a "D" exercise. To work on the right lead I start at the straight line of the "D" letter shape, walk a few steps, ask for a trot then add my leg and rein aids for a right lead and ask for a canter bringing the horse off the the right in a big circle back to finish the letter "D". Back at my starting spot I will stop, ask for a few steps back to get the hind end ready and do it again.
When you feel comfortable you can switch it up and do a backwards "D" for the left lead and alternate leads each time. The goal is to have the horse clearly understand the lead cue so that lead changes can be performed even on a straight line if you desire.
Good luck! It just sounds like a little retraining is needed for your mare and she'll be just as good taking a right lead as she is at the left!
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post #5 of 6 Old 07-09-2013, 12:57 PM
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When a horse gets really stiff like that to one side I find it helps a lot when while tacking up you break a carrot into three pieces, show it to them, put it to the weak side's barrel and try to make them bend more with each carrot
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post #6 of 6 Old 07-09-2013, 01:06 PM
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My first horse was so stiff to the right it was like riding a different horse when he took the right lead! This is the horse I trained to some pretty high dressage levels.

I will say that the lateral work does a lot. Eventually this horse would take either lead and do 1 tempe changes. He was ALWAYS different to the right.. (I got him when he was 7 and had been used a LOT). He was never real pretty to the right. He was balanced enough to do it when asked.. and he could actually collect and extend and stay on the right lead.

It did take a lot of work to get that with him.

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~Winston Churchill
(or woman!!!! ) Dinosaur Horse Trainer
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