Could spurs make him throw the leg?
I'm currently training a horse who was originally just broke to w/t/c, then was used on trails for the past 10 years. He is my eventer, but I recently took him to the fair for a week as my 4h project. He NEVER takes the left lead, which I have ideally thought was from sore hocks. I've been told several different things to try: twisting him so he has to throw the shoulder and the lead, putting him on a lunge line to see if he takes it (if he does, he doesn't have sore hocks, it's rider error) and using spurs. As far as I've heard, he was originally trained using spurs, but over the years of trail riding, has been un sensitised after being really iffy on the aids. Is it possible that using spurs could make him throw the lead? I don't understand how that would work any better than what I've been trying.
I highly doubt that the use (or dis-use) of spurs would cause the horse not to take a certain lead. SOunds more like beginners rode him on the tril so when he centered he took whatever lead he preferred. Like humans horses are left or right "hooved" (leads) so he's probably more built up (muscled) in one direction than the other.
To fix make certain he is straight in the walk trot AND canter, make certain you work equally in BOTH directions, then address how you ask for that specific lead.
For getting a right lead canter the outside (left) leg should be slightly behind the girth, inside (right) leg at the girth. Squeeze with inside leg at girth same time you move outside leg back (like a windshield washer motion). For horses having a hard time getting a lead I then "rock" my hip from outside back to inside front at same time I'm moving legs as mentioned above, and cluck or make a kissing noise. Canter cue is to weight the inside hip in the forward position.
Wearing spurs isn't going to help the horse get to correct lead. Spurs are used on horses that already understand that pressure from left heel means canter right....and so on. You put on spurs when you need faster and more immediate responses or on horses that have gotten a little lazy. It sounds like your horse needs to be retaught how to pick up its leads. It actually is hard to get a horse to go on the lead that they are bad on. Its like asking you to write with your non-dominate hand.
There are several ways to try and get the horse to go on the correct lead. Bending to the outside and then asking (easier to fall into it), asking on a tight circle, if the horse picks up the wrong one, continue the counter canter on the circle as they can see how much harder it is, then break back down to a trot and try again. Some horses prefer to be bent to the inside, I also suggest using a half-seat if you get off your horses back they are freer to move as they feel the need to (as with a green horse) When they get the correct lead let them canter off straight and relax into it.
This is all after you have ruled out pain/stiffness. I also suggest finding a trainer. Teaching leads on a stubborn horse is hard and needs a precise touch to get it, but it varies so different from horse to horse that it is hard to explina.
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