Right lead canter
Hey I have really hit a wall in training my horse. I am now working on Phoenny's canter. We have been just randomly cantering here and there when we are out on the trail and she is wonderfully receptive and seems to really enjoy the canter. I am very happy with my horse and she is becoming very well balanced and soft so I felt it was time to introduce cantering into our formal training.
She is destinctly left footed, always leads a canter with her left foot and I can Not get her into a right lead canter. I just cant' do it. I have spent two serious sessions on this which we have both walked away from drenched in sweat and absolutely exhausted and no closer to getting a right lead. I must be doing something seriously wrong because what I am doing is not working.
My cue for the canter for left lead, open left rein, right leg goes back just behind the girth to push the hip over and horse pops into left lead canter. For a right lead canter, open right rein, left leg goes back behind girth to push hip over, horse pops into right lead canter. At least that is what my happened with my last horse. And that definitely happens with the left lead with Phoenix. I have had her trotting in a right hand circle (right leg inside) tried to push her hip over with my left leg to get her into a canter and she STILL chooses the left lead, doesn't matter how tight the circle is she will only pick up the left lead.
Today I tried backing her back to the starting point every time she picked up the wrong lead, we did that for half an hour, I tried one rein stops and trotting back to the start everytime she picked up the wrong lead. I tried trotting her asking for lead, back to trot, ask for right lead, back to trot, ask for right lead, back to trot, up and down the paddock for an hour. The thing is she has NO IDEA what I am asking for, it doesn't even occur to her to change leads. I can never reward her because she NEVER offers a right lead canter. So she starts to get sour on the canter and ****ty because she thinks she is doing what I am asking. By the way periodically during all the stuff I was doing I was asking for a left lead canter and rewarding her for by taking off the pressure but in some ways that almost seems to complicate things.
At the end of it all I ran out of time and had to go home, she was sour and wouldn't canter at all so I turned for home and pushed her into her left lead canter and let her relax into it and she was fine for the rest of the ride, cantering at the lightest touch again - Thank god!
What should I do? I am completely floored by this, any ideas, better ways to teach a right lead are welcome.
What I have heard, and did with my mare, is bend her to the outside not the inside. I know that probably seems counter-intuitive - "But I always bend horses to the inside to get them to pick up the right lead!" Well, that's on trained horses, once they get the concept of leads, then you can teach them to bend to the inside and associated that with whatever lead is correct for the direction that you're going. For babies, it's a lot better to bend them to the outside. Why do you sit on your outside seatbone? To free up their inside shoulder. The same goes for bending them. You need to free up her inside shoulder, not bend her head toward it. Some people may disagree with me, but I've seen this work for horses that people would SWEAR up and down that would not pick up this lead or that lead.
I hate to sound like a broken record but I was just reading in the book True Horsemanship through Feel about leads and lead changes. I am too slow of a typer and too lazy to repeat it all here but the gist of it is if you set your horse up correctly they can't not take the wrong lead. In the lope the maintains the same diagnol that it had in the trot but the other two feet change jobs. Usually if your riding the correct diaganol and you just ease your horse up into a lope the horse will take care of the lead. You may need to work more on yeilding the hindquarters. If you teach your horse to do a half pass at a trot then move into a canter you will most likely be set up for the correct lead.
I have not even scratched the surface of the information that is presented in the book.
It really all comes down to the rider getting out of the horses way. i have rarely seen a horse that is loose pick up the wrong lead.
I feel like I'm always suggesting this on this site.... but here goes, lol:
1. Does the horse pick up the correct leads on the lunge or in the round pen? Even if you don't normally lunge before a ride, test it out! If the horse can't, its indicative of a physical issue. If he/she does, then you are doing something different, even if minuscule, that is making her pick up the wrong lead. You said the horse is going nicely and very supple... she could be just that sensitive, which is fantastic in my book. :) If this is the case, I'd try asking for simple changes on the serpentine or figure 8. I know this might seem like you're getting ahead of things in asking for that, but it just might change her way of thinking enough that it works. Maybe over exaggerate the cues?
2. If the horse can't pick it up on the line, that means usually one of two things. Either the horse is out of alignment bad enough that she physically can't pick up the correct lead because it hurts, or the horse isn't balanced equally on both sides (musculature wise) and it is much easier for her to pick up the same lead every time, regardless of the direction.
If its an alignment issue, there is no harm in having the chiro out. It can be so beneficial! It's really easy for a horse to knock themselves out of whack, even bumping into the stall frame on the way out of the stall can majorly bump the hips out.
If its a muscling issue-- trot trot trot trot trot! Even trotting in both directions is great for building even muscle. :)
I teach a horse to side pass before teaching leads.
If I want the right lead I move the hind end over with the left leg and at the same time pull the left rein forcing the front end to the left.
So with the hind end moving to the right, the front end moving to the left the horse can not pick up the left lead.
I do not trot into a lead, I go from a walk or a stand still.
I really like SeWHC's analysis of the problem, good decision-tree on diagnosing on this problem. You can't ignore that most often it's the rider's side dominance that inhibits one lead, rather than the rider's
I also like RiosDad's solution for setting up for the correct lead. Using my Western to English translator, leg yield two to three strides with the horse firmly on the outside aids before asking for the the lead.
Thanks for the posts guys. It is definitly me. I think Riosdad and RomanticLyric are right. After reading your posts and thinking about what I have been doing I think I have inadvertantly been closing down her right shoulder and not giving her the option to lead with it. That is the thing that is jumping out at me the most because she does yield her hind quarters very well.
I know there is nothing physically wrong because ironically enough after the first unsuccessful "change lead session" we were cantering (on her normal left lead) through a paddock full of thistles and we got to a particularly big clump. I think Phoenix couldn't decide which way she wanted to go to avoid the thistles and she ended up doing a flying lead change at the last second to go around them. Needless to say I took full advantage and kept her in that right lead canter for a while. She did the lead change effortlessly and maintained it without any probs. I am content that I am the fly in this ointment and Phoenix has the patience of a saint!
I agree with you also Kevin, all I have to do is establish my mistake (which I think I am getting an inkling) and then let my horse get on with it.
I have a very similar issue with getting my right canter lead. Frustration frustration frustration! My horse is 18 and canters on his left lead going on a right circle when lounging and in the pasture he is always on the left lead. I really think he just sees no reason to ever be on the right lead. Except when I intentionally run him into a barrel or something when circling so that he will have to leap out to the right and pick up the right lead to avoid hitting it, then switches back to the wrong lead a couple strides later. Obviously I will not try that technique when riding, I garuntee it would leave me in the dirt.
I set up the lead correctly and that would work for almost any other horse, but not him.
So in this case I don't think it is me getting in his way(could be wrong), but I do know it is up to me to help him figure out how move his body onto the correct lead. How do I do that you say? NO idea! I have tried everything I can think of. How do you correct an 18 year old habit?
Anybody have ideas? I ride western but am open to english riding techniques. Here is a video of my problem:
Although I agree it can be the riders fault it can also be a misalignment, usually through the inside shoulder and outside hind in the direction of the leg a horse will not canter happily on.
There are two ways to encourage a horse a horse to canter on a 'bad' lead. One is to canter them on the side of a hill as it is very difficult for them to canter leading with the lower leg, the other is to put a small rail up in a corner and ask for the canter as they pop over it.
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