Left Lead - Agh!

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Left Lead - Agh!

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  • Highland pony struggles to canter
  • Horse has never picked up right lead

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    10-22-2010, 01:51 PM
Left Lead - Agh!


My horse cannot pick up his left lead.

Bought him as a 4 y/o [he's a Highland Pony gelding and he's 6 y/o now] in May last year and were told he couldn't canter on a circle but had no other problems. Long story short - had actually bought an extremely green, maniac of a pony who though had been broken in well by professionals, his training and schooling had not been kept going with his owner and his problemwith left lead canter never sorted. We doubted he had been cantered in a school at all. I had a lot of problems with him, one of them included bucking, something he liked to do going into a canter transition. I was told NOT to worry about leads and to concetrate on getting him to canter without bucking and srtaight off a cue.

We have that now, but because the lead issue has not been sorted, he has no idea that what he is doing is wrong.

I have an insctructor who i've been working with. He picks it up over jumps, so we've been doing it over poles and jumps with much success.

But I have several problems.

1. I cannot tell which lead he is on. It is not obvious at all on him, he's pretty unbalanced and his conformation makes it incredibly difficult to tell which lead he is on. I have no idea what to do about this, I have to have someone on the ground with me to tell me when he's on the correct lead [and even then it's difficult to tell] What can I do to sort this as this is holding me back quite a bit?

2. On the flat I have managed to get him topick it up a handful of times by doing walk/canter and turning his head a little to the outside under an instructors supervision. The problem is however, he picks up his left lead in his hind end but doesn't pick it up in his front end.

3. I've been working on shoulder in excersises to help with opening up his shoulder. I struggle with this though, it's something he's never done before. Can someone give me some good tips, maybe a detailed description of what exactly I have to do and how to feel for it.

Sorry for such a long ramble. It's been a problem for such a long while. He has no idea what he's doing is wrong and sometimes I feel like I'm holding him back though have had others sit on him and they too are unable to get him to pick it up. He does it over jumps but just not on the flat, I'm not sure how to progress.

Thanks in advance for the help, I'm getting really rather down by it all. It's holding us back so much :/
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    10-22-2010, 02:03 PM
The inability ti pick up the left lead is a symptom of a bigger problem. If he was soft and responsive throughout his body and would move well off your leg you could position him in such a way that taking the left lead was the easiest thing in the world for him. Get him to yield his front and hind quarters at a walk and then a trot then you can start at a trot, yield his hindquarters just a little to the right and ask for a canter. It may be easier at first to do this in a straight line. The key to it is to do alot of trotting with his hindquarters yielded just a little either way so that he is very comfortable with it before you ask for a canter.
    10-22-2010, 02:05 PM
Thanks for the advice, how exactly would I go about doing this? Sounds similar to what I've been trying to achieve with shoulder in, hopefully it will eventually pay off.
    10-22-2010, 02:24 PM
My horse has the same issue.... he does not know where his feet are. My trainer has me backing him up hills, backing backwards on to bridges, and doing firgure eights so his back legs cross under. She also has me stretch his back legs behind him and under him when I a cleaning his hooves. We also are working on mini bends... keeping him light..... I ask him to make a small c shape with his body and to just see the end of his nose before I release the pressure. My trainer says horses either won't do something or can't.... therefore we are working on loosening him up so he can.
    10-23-2010, 12:59 AM
I had a friend who's horse NEVER picked up the right lead... ten years later she finds out she had a bone chip in her knee and therefore never COULD physically pick up the right lead. It never hurts to have your vet check your horse out and do X-Rays.
    10-23-2010, 02:19 AM
I have a horse that had a terrible time with his leads, but I put down a ground pole and ask for the canter over it and he gets it every time, now he rarely (I would have said never until yesterday) needs the ground pole.

I am concerned about your point 1), why is it so hard to tell his lead?

And point 2) I have always been taught to pull a horses head in when asking for a canter and the correct lead as they have to bend the direction you are going.
    10-23-2010, 05:20 AM
Thanks for all the advice everyone.

Citrus, we haven't quite progressed to a groundpole. Been doing it over a jump or a drop pole. How did you progress from a ground pole to eventually no pole?

AlexS, the way in which he built and his action makes it very difficult to tell, it's typical of his breed I'm afraid. And he's developed a very balanced counter-canter on the left rein due to the fact he is so used to cantering on the wrong leg on it so it's not even like he is extremely more. I'm not even sure if there is a way around this problem which is extremely frustrating.

Yes, that is the correct aid for asking for canter. However, this has not worked for Dougal at all, so we've tried a different tactic [under insctructor's supervision] which has been a little more successful. Stupidly, I can not rememeber the exact explanation for why it helps but it goes along the line of closing up the outside shoulder and forcing him to strike off on the correct lead. It's not pretty, it's not correct, but this pony has absolutely no idea that he is meant to strike off on the left lead on his left rein, this was a method used just to help him learn that left is left. You can sit and give the perfect aids to left canter as many times as you want but he won't pick it up.
It doesn't help that he's a bit sneaky and picks it up behind but fails to in front and just swaps.

Rn84, I haven't really considered that due to the fact he picks it up going over jumps a lot and will canter around the field on his left. But I suppose it's something to think about.

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