Teaching Lead Changes
Hi All. Okay, something that has frustrated me for a long time is watching people try to teach lead changes incorrectly. I like to use a slightly different method to teach lead changes rather than just gallop in figure eights and pull on the other rein. Does your horse have decent lateral work? I use leg yield because it gives all the right signals, and can be started at trot. Start out trotting on the left rein. When you reach the end of the ring, do a half circle (fairly small one so you dont have too far to go) and leg yield back to the wall (using right leg). As soon as you reach the wall, make sure your horse is bent to the right, switch your legs (now apply more left leg) and ask your horse to canter off on the right lead. Keep your horse straight through the leg yield and transition. When the horse understands this exercise in both directions, try it at canter. Left lead canter, half circle, leg yield, (left lead, right leg on) when you reach the wall, change your bend, switch your legs, and ride forward. If the horse does not get the lead, try more work from the trot, or put a pole on the straight wall. This way if he doesnt switch when you ask, there's a pole to help him a couple strides later. This method will allow your horse to stay straight, and he will change leads when you change your bend and your legs. Exactly what you want.
We work it so that you are on the diagonal you want to lead with when you are at a trot.
Say you are trotting on a circle and you want the horse to canter on the outside lead. You have to make sure you are on the outside diagonal at a trot and the horse will automatically begin a canter on that lead if you are on the right diaonal.
Changing leads at a canter is more difficult and we get young horses used to it by bringing them back to a trot from a canter and changing the diaonal you are trotting on then urging them into a canter agian on the correct lead. While we change leads we use lead yields and eventually the horse gets the idea to change leads when asked without having to come back to a trot. :)
That's how we do it in endurance in the best condition work outs so it's not too formal and it doesn't have to be as strict as say dressage.
Lots of groundwork should prepare your horse for this level of obedience - by this I mean serpentines, change of direction , circles, all at trot and with a good contact, using your body to indicate change of direction. After he is obedient at trot the canter will come more easily. Allow him one chance then come gently back to trot, ask for canter from an active trot not a running away one! I find with a young horse an open inside rein will help. No force should be necessary of course but wait until he is listening to you before you ask him. If you are both in balance he should strike off on the correct lead.
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