What should you do when you ask for canter and your horse goes on the wrong leg? :-)
Stop him and reposition him and ask again. You could also reinforce the asking leg by side passing him off your outside leg. OR if he's consistently working off on the wrong lead (provided nothing is wrong with him physically causing him to depart on the wrong lead) you could ask him for the wrong lead and make him counter canter (hard work) so that next time HE WANTS to depart on the correct lead.
A good exercise is to counter canter and practice keeping the horse in whatever lead you choose until you say you want a change.
Hope that helps.
Thanks Muppetgirl, I've sometimes found that bringing him back to trot and asking again won't work no matter how many times I do it. The counter canter is def something I'll try if the need arises. :)
Trottingalong, please don't try the counter canter!
Your horse is choosing the wrong lead because he is either in pain or unbalanced or because you are asking incorrectly.
If he ALWAYS chooses say the right lead, regardless of direction, he is probably physically uncomfortable on the left lead. Get a vet, chiropractor, or other pro out to find and fix the problem.
If he always chooses the exact opposite of what you are asking, either you are asking wrong and confusing him or you are somehow unbalancing in the transition and throwing him into the wrong lead. He's not doing it to be bad.
Are you asking on a straight line or a circle? What aids are you using? How well schooled is your horse? What does your instructor say?
If your horse is in pain, counter canter is NOT what you want. If your horse is unbalanced or confused, you are not actually counter cantering--you are careening around on the wrong lead.
When a horse gets the wrong lead, come back to trot. Take your time in the transition so that you have an organized, balanced, and through trot. Then ask again. Never just break to trot and run the horse right back into canter. That fixes nothing.
Regroup at the trot as many times as you need to. Chances are the problem is a balance one, so lessons are in order to fix this.
TP, Muppet did say to ensure nothing is physically wrong first.
Can you please explain to me what is so wrong about making a horse canter on the wrong lead, and making that be hard work? Sometimes horses who just don't "get it" start getting really frustrated at the stop-go of correcting the lead time after time. Especially greenies who are thinking "I cantered! What's the problem?" So I will push them forwards even if the lead is incorrect because they need that forward motion so they don't get stuck or in a place where they are terribly horribly confused.
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What is wrong is that if we have ruled out physical issues, then it's either rider error or training or balance--most likely balance. It can be rider balance or horse balance.
If it is rider error--the rider is asking for the canter depart incorrectly--then it is unlikely that the horse understands why he is being forced to canter along on the wrong lead. Further, it is unlikely that the rider knows how to properly balance the horse. The solution here is not to make the horse tired, sore, resentful of the canter, etc. but to take lessons on how to get the depart. That means learning how to balance and set up for it as well as the aids to ask for the canter.
The other reason the horse is picking up the wrong lead is balance. The horse is not balanced enough to pick up the correct lead, either in his own body or because of an unbalanced rider. If the latter, the solution is, again, lessons. These will help the rider learn where he is unbalancing the horse. If the former, the horse is not balanced enough to sustain a counter canter through a turn and therefore cannot help but fall on the shoulder and onto the forehand in the canter. How is this productive in schooling a green, unbalanced horse?
There is a reason the counter canter doesn't show up on dressage tests until the higher levels. The balance required for a PROPER counter canter--and not just going around on the opposite lead--is pretty high. Lengthenings in the trot and canter and lateral work make appearances before counter canter.
Update: The pony that I've been having trouble getting on the correct leg is in no pain and is actually quite balanced in canter, more so than than anyone was expecting. The main problem is that he's green from having little work and as JustDressageIt said he tends to get frustrated at the stopping and starting when I bring him back to trot to correct him.
My instructor said that bringing him back to trot every time wasn't making him realise his mistake and to try to find another method of making him want to go on the correct leg. I've been asking for canter, and if he takes the wrong leg I keep him going anyway, bring him back when I'm ready, reposition and ask again and so far it's really helping. he's realising that going on the correct leg is much more comfortable.
Make sure he is properly flexed/bent to the inside or they won't pick up the correct lead. Inside leg is supporting, nice flexion at the poll so you can see the inside corner of the eye of the horse. Supportive outside rein.
It sounds like one (or both) of you is pretty green. If the horse is green but you are experienced, you would realize that the underlying issue is a balance issue and that "counter cantering" is not actually what you are doing. If you as a rider are green and the horse is experienced, your instructor should be addressing your cues and not telling you the horse doesn't get it. If you are both green, your instructor should address that.
Again, COUNTER CANTER is not the same as cantering on the wrong lead. You should be able to pick up a specific lead.
Horses do not make leaps of logic (I have to keep cantering, but if I had picked up the other lead I would not have had to do that). If you don't correct and make him try again, he thinks he gave you the right answer and that you WANTED the incorrect lead. If you go back to trot and immediately try again, you are telling him, "sorry, but that was wrong; try again."
A properly executed transition is more difficult than maintaining a gait. Thus if you want the horse to work harder, go back to trot and try again.
There is no training benefit to cantering around on the wrong lead.
To add--you say he is balanced in the canter, but we are talking about the transition. He is losing his balance IN THE TRANSITION. If he weren't, he would pick up the correct lead. If he is the green one, it is unlikely he has learned to balance himself through the transition. Therefore it is your job as a rider to help him do so. If you are not able to help him balance and thus get the correct lead, you should not be attempting canter transitions on him until he has learned them.
Further, if he is getting frustrated at the stop/start, it is probably because there is a hole. This may be how you ride the transitions, a lack of balance on his part (combined with a failure to correct on yours), or something else. If he is getting truly upset he is either not ready to canter or it is because of something you are doing. If he is just getting annoyed, great--let him know that his choices are to pick up the correct lead or to keep trying.
Video would help us more accurately pinpoint the problem.
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