My 14 year old tennessee walking horse gelding, Mosey, just started pole bending about a month ago.
The very first thing I want to point out is that you should NOT be expecting much from your horse if you've only been pole bending the pattern for a month. In fact, you shouldn't be galloping them yet. It's takes lots of time and patience to pattern them first (walking and trotting) so that they learn a perfect pattern and the proper cues and placement. Galloping before you are ready will only lead to bad habits and sloppy patterns.
So my first bit of advice --> slow it down and go back to basics.
We're competing in the E-town fair this year, and he's really good running down the straights next to the poles, but whenever we turn right at the last pole, he slows down and doesn't turn quite as fast as he does going left. How can I teach him to go bend faster going right??
As I stated above, you shouldn't be galloping yet. He's not ready and clearly doesn't know the pattern well enough or know that he is supposed to collect himself for the turn. Any horse can run in a straight line no problem. But you need to take the time to slow down and properly teach him the turn around the end poles and the weaving.
If he turns better to the left, do the pattern to the left! You can do the pattern either way. However, it is always beneficial to work a horse on their weak side so they get better at it.
Also, he's not very good with lead changes in between the poles. He does a really quick trot and sometimes he slows down to a slow trot. How can I keep him going at the fast trot? And if possible, how can I teach him to switch leads at the canter??
Again, I will keep repeating it until the point is driven home hard. You need to slow down and go back to basics. That is the only way he is going to learn. He's not ready to go faster than a walk, it sounds, if you cannot control him at the trot and if he cannot keep his body in position for momentum.
You teach him to switch leads AWAY from the pattern. Start by teaching a simple lead change. When he has mastered that (which may take several months
) then you can try to teach a flying lead change, which you use in pole bending.
Instead of posting a lengthy description here, check out some links on how to teach lead changes. Horse Training Articles : Teaching the lead change Flying Lead Changes, Flying Lead Change, How to Change Leads How to Teach Your Horse the Flying Lead Change | eHow.com Lead Change when Horse Riding by Cherry Hill
A few videos on Lead Changes.
(No sound on that one, but it goes with Sandy's article above.)
And there's oodles more information on it if you look.
Of course, you can also search for "Lead Changes" right here on HorseForum for lots of threads about that topic.
Do not lean.
When we're weaving in and out of the poles, should I lean my body left and right or should I just stay balanced and don't move?
You need to stay out of your horse's way. You never ever lean in any sort of speed event turn as it throws off your horse's balance. The less you move and "bother" your horse, the better.
Also, your horse needs to know leg cues and respond to them. Most of pole bending is done with your legs and guidance, and the reins/hands only as an extra support.
Also, should I keep my rear off the saddle while we're weaving in and out? Or should I just post to his trot??
Ride the trot as you normally would based upon the speed you are going. Just try to be as smooth and out of his way as possible. Ideally, when you finally add good speed to your run months down the road, you'll be slightly standing in your stirrups as you weave.
I would highly recommend getting the book by Wayne Sandberg
called "19 second Pole Bending
". You can get it used and cheap on Amazon. If you really want the fundamentals behind pole bending, there's your source!!
Here's a couple great 19-second pole runs. Notice how quiet the riders are. You can see in the videos and 90% of the weaving involves leg cues
to the horse, and just supporting them with your hands and the reins.
She holds her hands much higher than most, but watch her body. She's barely moving and barely cueing her horse, because he has been patterned well and knows his job.
Great run here. Her hands are quiet and just guiding him through the poles. It's not so much a "weave" as just a subtle bend to get around each pole while at the run. Notice how quiet the rest of her body is.