Left Lead Issues - The Horse Forum
  • 2 Post By AnitaAnne
  • 1 Post By AnitaAnne
  • 1 Post By waresbear
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-09-2019, 01:15 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2019
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Left Lead Issues

Alright, I know that all horses have a dominant side and it’s definitely the right lead with my mare.

Any tips on strengthening the non-dominant side of a horse? Left lead.
When I ask for a left lead and get a right lead, what should I do?
Any stretches or drills that can help?

My mare is 6 this year and only green broke at this point. She’s very lazy and loping has always been an issues from day one. It’s been a huge learning curve because my last pony was a bit more hot and sensitive.

Will not pick up more than a stride or two during ground work for anyone (me, family, clinicians, etc) I’m just saying because I’ve been told she needs too but that’s just not going to happen...

Also, I should mention she is fully vetted yearly, on an 8-10wk farrier schedule, had the saddle professionally fitted, and sees an equine therapist every 3mths.

So, getting her into a comfortable lope on a loose rein down the trail has been my main focus for the last few months because she has more pep outdoors. But It’s all been straight or slightly curved around treed patches in the field. She will pick up the right lead 90% of the time. The 10% when she finally picks up the left lead it just doesn’t feel very coordinated and she will eventually just quit on me.

I would like to progress to loping in the arena where I don’t have to worry about footing/slipping when doing circles; thinking it might help with picking up on the left lead.
I was able to keep her loping on the right lead for about one - two circles. On the plus side I’m becoming a much better rider because you really have to ride to keep her momentum going LoL basically her moto is “you will work just as hard as me”

It seems like we’re moving ahead but once you get to the left lead it all falls apart...
I’ve been told that you can let them lope on the wrong lead and they will eventually realize that it’s uncomfortable and figure it out... Unfortunately, this has not worked for me because I’ve tried and she will lope on the wrong lead right into the fence! ☹️ Got the stitches to prove it.When I finally get her on the left lead she will just quite on me after a couple strides...

I’m just looking for any tips or stories of how you over came this with your lazy horse.

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post #2 of 10 Old 07-09-2019, 01:52 PM
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Hi. As I see it, you have two issues; lazy and one sided.

Ring work is the easiest way to fix these issues, so I would start there.


To get this horse quicker off the aids, one needs to be very consistent with the aids. I would start with walk and trot intervals before even thinking about canter work.

So you ask, then demand. No fussiness in-between. Use the lightest leg (and seat if you know seat aids). Halt to walk, slight heel rub, if no response, hard kick or pop with dressage whip. Be very careful not to restrain the horse with the reins. If he pops into a trot, that is ok. Do not reprimand any forward motion.

Keep at whatever gait he went into for 5 strides, then back to walk. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Do this exercise on a 20 meter circle, and be sure to go in both directions, for example two circles each direction, then go in a long walk the whole arena once he is responding quickly and moving forward.

Do not let him amble along, and do not let him get too tired or too anxious.

He needs to understand that once you are riding, it is time to work.

Your goal is to have him respond to the light leg without needing the whip.
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post #3 of 10 Old 07-09-2019, 02:02 PM
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Left lead:

Once your horse is moving more energetically, and consistent on halt-walk and walk-trot intervals, it is time to add the canter work.

You will do the same exercise on a 20 meter circle, but now you will do trot-canter transitions again in both directions.

Work first on the right, and when he understands what you are asking switch to circle left.

If you do your circles near the corner of the arena, it will help to ask for the canter coming out of the corner.

Once he understands the trot-canter transitions in each direction, it is time to start strengthening his left lead.

So the next step would be to keep increasing the canter strides on the transitions to the left. So instead of 4-5 strides, do 5-6 strides before returning to trot. Keep the trot sets at 4 strides. Continue to do more strides until you can canter a full circle.

For the next few weeks, continue to canter twice as many sides to the left as to the right.

*Important* Theses are exercises are not meant to be done in one day. It may take a couple of weeks before the horse is consistently responding quickly to the aids in the first practice circles.

Do not push the horse too fast into canter work because the muscle development takes time, lots of time.

When he is doing well, stop, get off or go take a trail ride. Don't school him back into boredom...
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post #4 of 10 Old 07-09-2019, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah, they have both been an issue LoL

I will bring out my quirt again because thinking back I haven’t been working on the snappy transitions lately. We could definitely use a refresher!

I find she does best when ridden consistently for only 30-45mins at a time. Anything more she starts losing focus or getting tired.

Thank you so much!
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-09-2019, 03:57 PM
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Maybe she is lacking muscles on the left side so it is hard for her to push off? Trotting while lunging will build muscle.
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-10-2019, 01:35 AM
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Maybe she needs a 'hotter' diet, too. More calories? what is she eating now?

Yeah, having them feel that there is a REASON and a PURPOSE to going from one place to another can help. Could you 'race' her with a friend? get her excited about going forward.
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post #7 of 10 Old 07-10-2019, 03:04 AM
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Your horse also could have compressed ribs or something out in the spine that makes taking the right lead a lot easier than taking the left. A chiropractor/bodyworker can help a lot. I would rule that out first.
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-10-2019, 05:05 AM
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Agree with @waresbear . I'd assume if the horse is having that much difficulty, something physical is contributing. It sounds like you've ruled out most issues, but how balanced are her hooves? One common culprit would be a club hoof on the left front. If a hoof is too clubby, it can be difficult or uncomfortable for the horse to stretch it out and land on that heel. Most often this is because the club hoof has some thrush in the central sulcus making it uncomfortable to land hard on the heel (which stretches it apart). The central sulcus should look like an open thumbprint rather than a crack. But also it can be if that hoof is taller than the other, which shifts the horse's weight to the other side. Horses' shoulder muscles are on a sling, so if one hoof is taller than the other, it will perpetually push the weight to the other front leg.

Another common issue is if one shoulder is larger than the other. This can either push the rider's weight off balance to one side, or it can restrict one shoulder, making it very difficult for a horse to pick up a certain lead.



A horse with hooves like this will often have difficulty picking up the lead with the taller hoof.
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-10-2019, 07:10 AM
Green Broke
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Dont continue on the wrong lead. You should be able to feel in the transition which lead she's going to take and abort the canter if it's the wrong one. Do the transition through the walk if it gives you better body control.

Once you get the lead don't keep going until she falls out. If she can only do 4 strides, stop at 3.

Lateral work in the walk and trot will strengthen her. Leg yield, shoulder in, and travers.

Though if she's really this tough on that lead, it does sound like something is going on. Does that yearly vetting include flexions and jogging out?
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post #10 of 10 Old 07-15-2019, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2019
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Thank you @AnitaAnne because your suggestions have been really helping.

My mare is an easy keeper and currently overweight. I know this does nothing to help the situation.
She is free fed on a round bale with a NagBag (not ideal but it’s the only option where she’s staying) I also fed Hoffmans Maintenance with Farrier’s Formula.
I don’t agree with a “hotter” diet because it does nothing for her motivation and really only seems to make her spooky LoL

She does not care for racing or following another horse... She’s perfectly happy trail riding alone. The only thing that gives her “purpose” is chasing cattle and unfortunately I don’t have any to practice on. We have local sorting events during the winter and usually a cow horse clinic in spring that we attend.

She just seen the equine Therapists this weekend and I was told that it’s not physical.

Her hooves are in great condition and never had any issues brought up by her farrier, vet or therapist.

I’m working very hard on my body position and cueing at the correct time for the left lead. We’ve been doing long trotting, working on snappy transitions (walk, trot, walk, trot, lop, trot, etc).
We were able to work up to a full circle on the left lead and 3 strides out before we transitioned to a relaxed trot and continued our trail ride.
It probably wasn’t pretty but little by little we are working on it.

Thanks everyone!
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