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As someone with very little formal training myself, I'm stumped. What's the best way to get my horse to understand lead changes? He does perfectly fine picking up the correct lead, but if I try to figure 8 or change direction, he won't change his lead. I pick up the inside rein and touch his side with my outside spur. I'm asking right, correct? If I try to figure 8 him in the arena at the lope, one of two things will happen. The first is that he'll just turn and ignore me asking for a lead change, and we'll be on the wrong lead. The other is that we'll end up running straight toward the fence, and he'll refuse to turn either way, and last minute decide to spin around to the side of whichever lead we're on (the cause of many falls, haha)
We really don't have problems with picking up a lead, I just can never get him to change his lead. How would I go about this?
 

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I'm no expert but I think one way is when you do a figure 8 have a pole on the ground in what would be the cross over part of the figure 8. When you pass over it you ask for the lead change.
 

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Start by breaking down to the trot and then picking the lope back up on the correct lead, once the horse figures this out start taking fewer trot strides and then try the pole method mentioned above.
 

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I like Lynn F's method. I broke it down quite a bit more for my mare than that even, because she tends to get very excited when doing lead changes. I actually started by halting in the middle of my figure 8, and then walk, then trot, then eventually flying lead changes. The idea is like half-halting, if they are anticipating a halt, or a break to slower speed, they will be thinking about it, and (if done correctly) weighting their hind ends for you, then all you need to do when they are balanced is cue for the new lead. Soon, you can start asking for this half halt/cue to new lead without even being on a figure 8 :) My mare still isn't set 100% in her head changes, because it turns into such an exciting thing for her that she gets all fast and spastic about it, I don't do it often (although, at shows, in the jumper ring, she will almost always change for me). My gelding can switch anywhere, any time, he was more natural with them to begin with anyway, starting as a baby when he was running around and would switch them without problem :)

Good luck, hope this helps. Sounds like you're on the right track already, just need to refine it down a bit.
 
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