Feeling correct lead
When I ride my horse, I can never feel it when he takes off on the correct lead. I always have to have somebody down there with me to check and make sure he does it correctly. Looking down isn't exactly a great idea, and sometimes he takes off on the wrong lead even if I give him the signal. I have heard horses tripping when they take off on the wrong lead, and I don't want him to get hurt! What can I do?
Something is wrong if your horse trips on a countercanter. Last year, I was in a command class with over 20 horses when countercanter was called for, no one tripped, a few didn't pick it up & were eliminated. First off, can you tell on a different horse, other than your own, when you pick up the correct lead? Does he blow leads when others ride him?
Is it bad to look down and check your lead? I've been doing that for a while. :/ Usually I only check though if I feel that the horse off to check my suspicion that they are on the wrong lead.
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Let's say we want a left lead. Start by circling your horse in a large circle to the left at the trot. When you are ready, ask him for the lead by cueing him with your right leg, bumping him with your heel slightly back. You should also have his nose very slightly tipped to the inside (left) so that you can see his left eye. You do not want to over-tip his nose because that will throw him off-balance.
Then to tell if he is correctly on the left lead, just ride for some strides in that large circle. Don't look yet. Really let your hips move with the rhythm of his body. And you will notice, ever so slightly, that your hips are moving from back/right to front/left. This makes sense because think about how his feet are hitting the ground on his left lead. His back right foot is hitting first, then his back left and front right are hitting at the same time, followed by his front left, before all legs are off the ground again. This makes a very subtle "rocking" effect toward the front left, toward the leading leg. Again, just ride and feel it. If you want to make sure, then you can peek down.
If he cross-fired (where he picked up the left lead on just his front or back legs, and picked up the right lead on the opposite set of legs) you will notice a really rough jerk in one direction or the other, depending on which way he cross-fired.
And if he picked up a counter-canter (aka the WRONG lead, if you didn't tell him to specifically do it) then you'll notice your hips subtley swaying in the wrong direction.
He's not going to trip if he picks up the wrong lead. Do you think when he's romping around in the pasture, he's thinking about what lead his is on? Of course not. He can switch from one lead to the other with a moment's notice on his part. It's only when we, as the rider, want to ask them to do a specific lead at a specific time, does the horse even care what lead he is on.
Okay! Thanks, it's good to know :)
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First, at the walk you need to learn to feel where one hind leg is in it's movement. It doesn't matter which one. As he walks, his hips roll. Have someone watch and each time the chosen hoof touches the ground you say Now. Don't worry if you get it wrong, you are learning to feel it. Then you will get it right every time. Ok, if your horse will step into a canter, ask for it the moment the outside hoof begins it's upward arc. When he responds his legs are in a good position to strike off on the correct lead. Your focus needs to be on the hips, not the shoulders. Works for me every time.
Thanks a lot, guys! :)
Another tip, is when your riding in a circle to the right and you ask for a canter. Relax your legs and let the horse go for a couple strides...if the horse is on the "right" lead you'll feel your right leg being pulled forward more. You can lean down and look too if you need.
While you're riding at the canter, see if you can feel which one of your legs is bein' pulled forward more. With time you'll be able to feel and not have to think twice.
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