HELP! He won't pick up the right lead at the canter! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
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HELP! He won't pick up the right lead at the canter!

Hey everybody!
I just got a new horse this past February and he WILL NOT pick up the right lead at the canter under saddle. When I lunge him or if he's out in the pasture he will pick up the right lead without a fuss although it's obvious he does favor his left lead. His previous owners of 7 years bought him as a trail horse but he really ended up being a pasture pet. When I got him he was just really unconditioned and I used that as an excuse for him not picking up his right lead (at that point he wouldn't even do it on the lunge line). But now he's in good shape so why won't he pick up that lead? I've been working him on a circle so he's flexed to the inside and I've even used a jump to try to get him to land on the correct lead...but no luck. On the off chance that he does pick up the right lead he'll break into a trot after a few strides and pick up the left... HELP!
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post #2 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 03:11 PM
Green Broke
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There are a few horses out there that are one sided. I had one (the horse I also taught the Levade to). He was my first horse (and I was 12 years old).. and when I got him I knew less than you can imagine. I had NO IDEA what a "lead" was and so rode him.

Well, he favored his left lead and he would take that under saddle even in a very short right turn!! On the RARE occasion when he took his right lead (and yes.. he was correct behind too) it was rough as a washboard road.. because he had not developed the muscles OR the mental ability to use himself correctly and take the right lead!

I eventually learned (a lot) more and taught this horse to leg yield.. to do turns on the forehand.. to trot circles, figure 8', serpentines.. We trotted up hills (he was long backed, steep shouldered and had pasterns that were so upright there was no give). We trotted up a lot of STEEP hills.. and I taught him to collect, to side pass, tho shoulder in, shoulder out.. pirouette at the walk.. (not easy). Leg yields and bends..

... and when I got his ring of muscles working I could collect him and get him to take that right lead just as pretty as could be.

He was never as smooth on the right lead as on the left.. but he was as light as could be and would take either lead and swap between them.

I suspect with your horse that he was just ridden and never trained. So.. that is your job now. You may not know how to ask for a right lead (but I suspect you do.. left leg active behind the girth, right leg steady on the girth.. horse bent a little to the right). You need to get that down.. but if, even then, there is no right lead you need to go back and help him with his foundation. Get him supple to the right at the walk and the trot and totally obedient to your leg. Get him to transition up and down.. IN the walk and the trot and BETWEEN the walk and the trot. Get him yielding..

...and after a month.. maybe more (if he is really left sided).. you will give him that half halt and ask for the right lead and it will be there.

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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post #3 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 03:12 PM
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First off, how is his farrier work? I have been working with my thoroughbred gelding for a year, trying to strengthen him to the right an encourage bending and flexion to encourage him to pick up his right lead, only to switch to a better farrier last week and discover that my efforts had been in vain. The next ride, he nailed every single lead, and I was frustrated to discover that our problems were all farrier-related.

If you've ruled out pain and farrier work, learn to move his haunches and forehand over. Progress to leg yields in a straight line, then incorporate bend, then ask for leg yields in and out on a twenty-meter circle. One great exercise I learned was to ride a twenty meter circle with correct bend at a trot, over exaggerating that inside bend around my leg, and ride that for four to five strides before sitting a beat, bringing your weight down your outside leg, and bending the horse to the outside. Switch between bends every few strides, and ask for the canter when he feels balanced to the inside.

Good luck!
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post #4 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 03:54 PM
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^^As mentioned above, when you are sure he doesn't have some physical problem that is preventing him from picking up that lead (farrier, chiropractor, dentist [teeth CAN affect this!], etc) than you can start "pushing" him to get it.

Make sure you can first side pass and two track him with your legs, so that he knows how to respond to your legs.

You want to keep his nose tipped to the inside when you ask for the right lead so that his body is on the proper bend. You may cue him for the right lead 178 times before he actually does it, but keep on trying!

And as someone else already menetioned too, when he does get it, it probably will be pretty rough, as he hasn't worked those "right lead muscles" in a very long time!

Since he does pick up the right lead while lunging, you can supplement that as some exercise to help him build those muscles on that side.

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post #5 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 04:01 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the advice! He hasn't really taken well to yielding to my leg...I had kind of given up on it to tell you the truth. I mainly use him for trail riding but I've been wanting to try Ranch Versatility and to do that a horse neeeeds to know their leads. I don't have an arena- just a small flatish grassy area that doesn't tend to have the best footing. It's hard to dive into ringwork when you don't have a great place to execute it... I'm definitely going to get serious about teaching him to yield to my leg, turning on the forehand and hindquarters because I think it's going to be necessary to get him to pick up that lead. Do you guys have any tips for teaching that to a fairly insensitive horse? I'm finding that it is sooo much harder to teach things to an a older horse that has just been ridden and never really trained. Also, I'm embarrassed to say that I'm his farrier (not a professional)- He's barefoot and I just perform a basic trim on him as needed to keep him balanced. Times are tough so I've been trimming my own horses for a while now to save money. He has pretty good feet and hasn't had any lameness trouble. If it was his feet or any soreness I don't think he would pick up that lead in the pasture or lunge line (unless it was tack associated) but I'll have an actual farrier come check him out. Thank you guys again and I hope you get back to me with some ideas on training him to move off of my legs :)
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post #6 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 06:20 PM
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My Paso gelding was quite insensitive to the leg when it meant sideways motion, so I started on the ground and used a crop to enforce my aids when they were ignored. When he was solid with his turns on the ground, I transferred the same concepts to the saddle, again using a crop behind my leg when he ignored me.

With the more "thick-skinned" horses, it will take some time, just be firm with your aids and DEMAND that he give you what you're asking. Ask with the leg, tell with the crop. Being able to move the haunches over is a crucial part of refining lead departures.
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 07:19 PM
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I had a gelding much like yours. I made it my mission to "increase his sensitivity." I used a Dressage whip. I would put this horse up to a chest high bar (I had a hitching rail) and then ask him to step away from my leg pressure behind the girth. If he did not respond, I backed it up with the whip.

I carried two dressage whips riding for a LONG time and made i my business to back up EVERY leg cue with the whip. Horses are not REALLY "dead sided." They are desesnsitized to you cue because they have been kicked and kicked by some amateur.

When you make it a whole lot more motivating to pay attention to leg pressure they will pay attention to it. When he paid attention to my leg (no spurs) because I backed it up with the whip EVERY time, I then went to small spurs so I could use even less pressure and be a lot more specific in my cue.

I like your horse. My left lead horse looked much like yours.. but he was a cremello not a grey but he was snow white.. with an off white mane and tail.
Like I said.. this horse got very very good at a LOT of dressage moves.. and eventually he even would do a very very nice little Levade. He was not much to look at but he taught me a LOT.

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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post #8 of 9 Old 11-16-2012, 07:30 PM
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One of our horses also has trouble picking up the right lead in canter. He picks up the left lead fine, and continues to do so on the right rein. No matter how clear you make your aids, no matter how many times you try he just doesn't seem to do it.

One of my instructors did once tell me that if all else fails, go into canter in rising trot and on the WRONG diagonal. Apparently that works 9/10. I havn't tried it yet because I have been riding other horses instead of him lately.
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post #9 of 9 Old 11-19-2012, 03:54 PM Thread Starter
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I am ecstatic today! Jack has been great! I started being very persistent about having him yield to my leg. I started on the ground and once he was moving over there I started asking him to to the same thing under saddle. Over the past couple of days he has learned to do a pretty nice little turn on the forehand and I started asking him for a couple of strides in a haunches in at the walk as I transitioned in canter (his walk-canter transtions are impeccable aside from leads). The first day he only picked up the right lead 2 out of 6 tries (which is still immensely better than previous attempts) and then today he picked up the right lead every time I asked for it. As Elana mentioned his right lead canter is so unbalanced a bumpy (I had to be in two point position in order to keep balanced myself) but I'm so impressed by how willing he is to try to do what I'm asking of him. Thank you all for your advice! I am so proud of my boy!
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