Picking up the correct canter lead

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Picking up the correct canter lead

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  • How do you pick up a lead at the canter?
  • How to tell if a horse is on the right lead when cantering when lunging

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    07-15-2011, 09:30 PM
Picking up the correct canter lead

I'm sure there are a million other posts on this but this case is slightly different, I promise.

So first of all I cantered Tungsten for the first time outside today, hoorah! This was probably the 5th or 6th time we have worked on cantering. I normally do about once a week for 10 minutes. He is four and only has about 3 months riding in him and about a month last September with his old owners. Anyway, he was fantastic. The canter itself right now is very ugly and unbalanced, but that is to be expected. Anyway when tracking left we have difficulty picking up the correct lead.

The twist here is Tungsten has string halt. It has gotten much better in the 4 months I have had him just by correct training and developing his hind end. Now he only seems to have issues with his right hind, but his hindquarters are not nearly as strong as they would be were he to be "normal" making pretty much everything more difficult.

Any words of advise to help us with that lead? Thanks!
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    07-16-2011, 07:04 PM
Well I don't know much about string halt so I don't know exactly how that changes the situation, but assuming like you indicated in the post your horse simply has underdeveloped muscle tone for cantering and lacks practice, I can offer some advice. It is of course normal for a green horse to not naturally understand the concept of leads.
However, horses traveling on the wrong lead, especially when being asked to bend, will not be balancing correctly and will feel uncomfortable. We, as trainers, can use this to our advantage in teaching correct leads. The first question, however, I would have is whether your horse has mastered his leads on the ground yet or not.
If the horse has not worked much cantering on the lunge line, and does not pick up the correct lead lunging, then this is where I would start before teaching leads under saddle. When lunging, especially at the canter and extra-especially because your horse has a health condition(!), it is important that the lunging circle is large enough for him to canter comfortably on the correct lead. The key here is that this circle will not be comfortable should he pick up the incorrect lead.
If you are lucky, and your horse does not automatically pick up the correct lead on the lunge circle, he will perform a flying lead change. If you are slightly less lucky, he will break into a trot, in which case you can keep asking for the canter until he picks it up on the correct lead. In the worst case scenario, you may have to bring him back down to a trot or walk yourself and keep asking, even tightening the circle for the initial transition and widening it once he picks up the correct lead.
Once you have your horse moving out at the correct lead in a nice circle, maintain the canter for long enough to allow the horse to get used to the feel of the correct lead, as well as to build up his muscles. This is especially important when working on his difficult lead, as this will allow him to develop muscle and also be more comfortable moving correctly.
When you get to the point that your horse gets his leads correctly most of the time on the lunge, or if you would rather start off working from the saddle, you can move on to the next step. When you practice picking up the correct lead from the saddle, it helps to ask for the transition on a circle or in a corner, so that the horse is bent correctly. Setting up our horses for success is always important! If he does not pick up the correct lead, do not try to force a flying change in the saddle at first. Instead, immediately bring him back down to a trot (but not so roughly that he feels he is punished for taking the canter cue of course!) and ask again and again until you get that lead. You will get it eventually, I promise. Once you are in the lead, continue to canter for awhile to build up those muscles, just like you would on the lunge line. Work especially on his more difficult lead, as this is what needs the most work! Eventually he will figure it all out, just be patient with him!
    07-16-2011, 08:02 PM
Originally Posted by Loyalty09    
The twist here is Tungsten has string halt. It has gotten much better in the 4 months I have had him just by correct training and developing his hind end. Now he only seems to have issues with his right hind, but his hindquarters are not nearly as strong as they would be were he to be "normal" making pretty much everything more difficult.

Any words of advise to help us with that lead? Thanks!
The stringhalt will present a problem as this is not a training problem but a physical one.

Just how sever is it now? Does this horse have any draft in its breeding as it is more widely seen in this type?

For those not aware of what string halt is here is a short article.

Stringhalt and shivers

There may be a link to certain grasses/weeds so check out this site.

Stringhalt in Horses | Suite101.com
    07-16-2011, 09:10 PM
He does do correct leads on the ground while lunging. I think the main problem is him having the strength to pick up that weak lead with me on him. He just recently even has the epiphany "Hey I actually can still move with you on my back!"

His string halt is hardly severe and he has had it since birth, it is not a grass issue. It is still not entirely known what causes string halt. It also nearly goes away after warming up. It sorta looks like he is walking with a stick up his butt. Stiff and slightly exagerated movement.

I think I finally have some one to video tape us tomorrow. I don't know if we will do any cantering because I worked him pretty hard on it yesterday, but you can at least get an idea of his string halt.

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