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Tiligsmom
Sep. 8, 2009, 11:36 PM
I've been working on getting the correct canter leads with my young guy. He picks up the right lead with no problems regardless of where we are. However, getting the left lead is difficult. I have to counter flex him significantly to get him to take the correct lead..

Background: Work at walk and trot - We've been working on straightness and he tends to lean on his left (inside) shoulder. In order to help strengthen his right hind, we've been working on some shoulder fore, leg yield, and transitions between and within the gait.

From a biomechanical perspective, why is the exaggerated counterflexion (not true counter bend) necessary for him to pick up the correct left lead?

slc2
Sep. 9, 2009, 06:10 AM
He leans on his left shoulder? You mean he falls in to the left, and you feel like you're on a motorcycle that is leaning over and going to fall on the ground? He feels harder on the left rein? You always feel like you have to use your left leg because he winds up actually drifting toward the left even on a straight away, like a perpetual leg yield you don't want? A circle left gets suddenly smaller and you wind up having to struggle to keep a larger circle? And on the other side, you try to make a smaller circle, and he resists? All of the above?

His right leg is weak? You're saying that because he leans on the left side, or because he has an actual injury or problem with his right leg? His right foot hits the ground wide of his left foot, or out further from his body midline than the left foot? His lef hind foot hits the ground way in toward his midline? All of the above?

It may not mean the right leg is weak. It may mean the left side is so over-weighted, that the right hind leg is simply not working. It can get to feel 'weaker' simply because it's not getting used as much.

He does shoulder fore, leg yield and transitions 'to strengthen his right leg'. So does that mean that you do more of these when going right? Left? Neither? Does the question being posted here mean the shoulder fore, leg yield and transitions haven't helped?

One possible is that without realizing it you use more left rein and bend him more left and the right rein is less, which causes horses to fall in on the left.

One possible is that the person who started him taught him to pick up the left lead by bending his neck to the outside. That's how a lot of breakers teach horses to canter. One lead is usually sprawly and long, the other more upright and stiff (often the left). Turning the head to the outside is an old trick to get the stiff lead.

The other is that without realizing it, you use more right leg, and push your horse over toward the left.

The other is that to avoid picking up the left lead, the horse throws his shoulder to the outside, exactly during the moment of transition. This is sometimes just a habit and nothing to do with any weakness or pain. With a green youngster it is very common.

Assume you know if your horse is lame or in pain; then usual cause of canter lead problems in youngster is just stiffness and crookedness or just how sneakily clever and quick the rider is in the moment of transition.

By adopting that counter bend, you are controlling the shoulder position, so the horse can't throw his shoulder to the outside and his haunches to the inside, and grab the other canter lead.

It can suggest that there is something about the leg yields and shoulder fores, even the transitions, that need to change.

Often young (and even older) horses do these things 'like a trick', positioning a stiff unsupple body, rather than really allowing the aids to supple them.

Often it just means the suppling work they are getting needs to 'get into' them more, so that rather than just adopting a position in relationship to the rail or track, like a cued trick, they are actually loosening up and becoming more supple.

Try bending and counterbending at a posting trot on a large circle. Bending to a count of 2 left, then a count of 2 right, without an abrupt 'snap' or abandoning the outside rein, just ease him around keeping contact on both reins.

Try doing more of an angle of leg yield, along the wall (bend is left when going right, bend is right when going left). Try leg yielding from the quarter line to E or B, then finish the long side leg yielding with the bend the OTHER way(a counterbend), along the wall. Try leg yielding all the way from m to k (ie the whole long diagonal) and try to get to the letter while keeping the horse straight, urge the hind quarters to keep up and slow the shoulders down with the outside rein if the horse gets his haunches trailing. See if it's easier to go all the way across the ring leg yielding in one direction than the other.

Usually, the need to counter bend in the canter transition means the horse is crooked all the time - it just shows up more in the transition. See if the horse isn't staying straight during halt-trot transitions on the left too, correcting that can help.

Eventually, with suppling/straightening work, you should be able to control the shoulders without having to take the counter bend, instead, by just straightening the horse control the shoulders and get the canter lead.

Valentina_32926
Sep. 9, 2009, 09:18 AM
If he falls on his left shoulder the left rein is normally heavier - so this is the problem getting the left lead - his left shoulder is weighted too heavily.

Take MORE contact with the right rein (read the Lisa Wilcox article that just came out) and push his left shoulder into the right rein with your hip/thigh THEN ask for the left lead canter. (Be certain right rein is about 2 inches away from the neck so you are straightening the horse using the right rein.)

Tiligsmom
Sep. 9, 2009, 09:40 AM
SLC and Valentina - thank you for your insights. They are helpful and I'll give them a go!

SLC, in answer to your first paragraph: All of the above:lol: Literally, when I work with him, he feels like he's leaning into my left hand and leg. It's gotten light years better, but he's still crooked. You know what's strange....is that I knew that the counter bend kept his shoulders from falling out, but his issue is ....at least until the split second before strike off..... that his shoulders fall in (left - as Valentina mentioned) and his rib cage "leans" against my left leg - then in that split second, he throws his haunches in! So, I've stopped using my right leg behind the girth/left leg at the girth cue and have TRIED to just use inside leg. It's almost as if he has to try and get the wrong lead!

I was hoping to learn more about the mechanics so I could make more sense of what I'm feeling/doing.

Valentina - Where is Lisa's new article?

Oh....one more thing..... when working on lunge line with or without side reins, he routinely picks up the right lead regardless of direction he's traveling. It takes several transitions before he picks up the left lead. When he does, he sometimes cross fires.

Jane Savoie
Sep. 9, 2009, 09:54 AM
I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.

Tiligsmom
Sep. 9, 2009, 10:00 AM
Thanks, Jane. Great exercise! I'm envisioning that this will ensure he's working off of both of my legs and thus stepping into the contact evenly vs. leaning. Correct?

Jane Savoie
Sep. 9, 2009, 10:29 AM
Yup.:)

Tiligsmom
Sep. 9, 2009, 10:42 AM
I'll let you all know how it goes today! I'm excited about the new learning :).

Valentina_32926
Sep. 10, 2009, 12:32 PM
SLC and Valentina - thank you for your insights. They are helpful and I'll give them a go!

... .but his issue is ....at least until the split second before strike off..... that his shoulders fall in (left - as Valentina mentioned) and his rib cage "leans" against my left leg - then in that split second, he throws his haunches in! ...

Valentina - Where is Lisa's new article?

Start canter from shoulder fore / renvers to prevent haunches from falling in.

I was emailed Lisa article by one of my trainers. Can email to you if you give me your address (it's a PDF file).

asuits
Sep. 10, 2009, 12:41 PM
Something else I've found really works is to ask for 3 strides of leg yiel to the left which will help push that left hind up and underneath him and then ask for the canter while that left hind is up and underneath him.

goeslikestink
Sep. 10, 2009, 01:17 PM
I'll let you all know how it goes today! I'm excited about the new learning :).

also give as in you give on your strongest side this will help to even him up
also try to work him in a square areana rather than a round pen-- as dont know if you have one or not but it will help the horse be more balanced straigt and forwards using the full width and length of the school or an marked out area of 20 x60 at least so that you can use the school to lenghten and shorten his striding using the half halts stride in every transition from all walk paces all trot paces mixing the two then move up to canter paces and mix the three

if you look on my helpful links pages on the above sticky there loads of info including a really good topic by jane its all relevant to you so read all links

Tiligsmom
Sep. 10, 2009, 01:19 PM
Hi All -

OK...Yesterday, we warmed up using Jane's suggestion of spiraling in and out on a circle. I also rode in slight shoulder fore in both directions along long sides and asked for leg yield off both legs to ensure I had responsiveness to lateral requests. Then I asked for canter depart using slight leg yield out and he picked up the correct lead! We did this 3 times, after which he was very tired. It's amazing how much energy he expends in the canter.....very, very, taxing for him.

He's 5 and was started in March, so he has 6 months u/s. He's a Norwegian Fjord so his build lends itself more to pulling than carrying. The struggle with the canter is not uncommon in the breed. That being said, he moves and rides more like a horse than a pony. Below are some pics :)

bort84
Sep. 10, 2009, 04:02 PM
Ah! He's adorable! Haha, sorry, those pics are just very very cute. They have such sweet faces = ) Are you tiny or is he extra big for a fjord? Your sizes are quite well suited either way.

Jane's suggestion is exactly what I did with my guy when we were practicing nailing the canter depart everytime. He came from a saddle seat barn, so he had to relearn departs (not cue with the head to the rail, and not to get so geared up before the transition).

AnotherRound
Sep. 10, 2009, 04:13 PM
I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.

Nice, have to remember this one. I love the spiral, nice piece of work to use it with.

dbadaro
Sep. 10, 2009, 04:44 PM
I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.

my old trainer had me do this and it worked very well!

Jane Savoie
Sep. 10, 2009, 04:51 PM
Tiligsmom,
I'm glad you had success. And I agree. Your guy is ADORABLE!!!

But from your post I'm concerned that you might have misunderstood part of the exercise. It's not a spiral in and spiral out.

You spiral in on a single track. (Kinda like a lollipop that has a pinwheel design).

Then leg yield back out to the larger circle. His whole body moves sideways with a bend.

Hope that clarifies things.

slc2
Sep. 10, 2009, 08:51 PM
...I knew that the counter bend kept his shoulders from falling out, but his issue is ....at least until the split second before strike off..... that his shoulders fall in (left - as Valentina mentioned) and his rib cage "leans" against my left leg - then in that split second, he throws his haunches in!

--This is just his way of grabbing the lead. When they are stiff they can't really push straight forward, they can only really throw the shoulder or haunch to get the transition.


So, I've stopped using my right leg behind the girth/left leg at the girth cue and have TRIED to just use inside leg. It's almost as if he has to try and get the wrong lead!

--Try just making a 'gesture' with your outside leg, bring it a little back and just set it on him, rather than actually pressing it. If you try to go to the diagonal aid before you have your horse a certain amount supple and straightened, it is a problem.

--The reason Jayne's exercise helps is that it bends the horse and supples him, and hopefully the horse is more flowing forward, so he is more able to push with his hind leg, instead of throwing himself to get the lead. It's a nice exercise for that situation.

Tiligsmom
Sep. 10, 2009, 11:09 PM
Thank you all for your suggestions. Deconstructing the mechanics of this is very, very helpful as that's the way my brain/learning works. If I can deeply understand what's going on and why a certain exercise does or doesn't work, it helps me be more thoughtful in problem solving. I do have a trainer with whom I work as well, but I find that the broad range of expertise on this bb adds depth to my understanding!

Jane - I didn't communicate well in my post, but I did understand your exercise on the circle and executed as such:)! It really highlighted to me how much "helping/holding/pressing" I'm doing with my inner/left leg vs. having him react/respond to my left leg :eek:

Tiligsmom
Sep. 10, 2009, 11:17 PM
Ah! He's adorable! Haha, sorry, those pics are just very very cute. They have such sweet faces = ) Are you tiny or is he extra big for a fjord? Your sizes are quite well suited either way.

Thank you, bort! I'm not tiny, but I am small and he is huge for a Fjord 14.3!!!

slc2
Sep. 11, 2009, 06:21 AM
What a happy couple!:)

thatmoody
Sep. 11, 2009, 07:28 AM
I tried the leg yield out exercise with my Friesian yesterday. He has no trouble picking up his leads but after a very long layoff after surgery, we're still trying to get his strength back and he tends to brace himself as he goes into the canter. Once he picks it up he's ok and as long as I half halt him every other stride he will keep his legs under him for a short time, but he's still weak enough that I have keep his canter sessions very short as he will drop onto his forehand as he gets tired. I found that the spiral and softening the inside rein while still holding the outside seemed to support him better for the canter transition, so it was a bit smoother (he was lifting his head and bracing into the transition in spite of the rein when I wasn't leg yeilding into the transition). I believe that as his strength improves that will get better (and mostly we're riding half circles and lots of transitions as strength training) but that definitely seemed to help relax him. He's a blast to ride as he gets stronger, by the way - lots of power!

Oh, and Valentina, you have a PM.

Tiligsmom
Sep. 11, 2009, 10:54 PM
Hi All - Well, had an Ah Ha moment tonight!!!

I was working on the spiral in/spiral out on the circle (thank you Jane!). In the walk and trot I can really feel when he's correctly bent around my inside leg.

So, I go into the canter and wrong lead. I go immediately back to the circle in trot focusing on spiraling in and out and WOWOW.... I can really feel how crooked he gets in the canter!!! So, I get him working well again correctly bent around my inside leg spiraling in and out. I try canter depart again and wrong lead again. I immediately go back to trot and spiral circle. Again...I FEEL how crooked he is and work on getting a correct bend on the circle again. I spiral in and out, have a correct bend, then ask again and VOILA correct lead!!!

The most important Ah Ha was how I finally could FEEL how he contorted himself right before taking the wrong lead and now I have a tool that helps take us both back to the correct bend in order to get the correct lead correctly!

Overider
Sep. 16, 2009, 11:13 AM
Hi all,
I've been following this thread and am very interested as I now am the proud "mom" to a beautiful 9 y/o Fjord gelding. He has trouble w/ his right canter lead. Will pick up the left lead most times unless he's tired but will not pick up the left lead, will do it on the lunge for a short amount but then he's pretty runaway. Also , eh'll break to trot while on the right lead, won't sustain. This week he's having his teeth done, vet/chiro, blood work, feet done, body clipped - I want to cover all bases.

I'm wondering if NOT picking up the correct lead is so ingrained now that he's 9.

Does anyone know if this is a common thing with the breed?

Also, interesting about what Tiligsmom said - when her guy works at the canter he gets very tired (he is amazingly adorable BTW) - my guy also is exhausted but after recovery will happily trot and trot and trot. I ride him 4/5 out 7 days so he's not unfit although he can afford to lose a few pounds (working on that). Any thoughts?

TIA

Tiligsmom
Sep. 16, 2009, 11:54 AM
Hey Tia - Congrats on your new Fjord! I hope he brings much joy to your life!

To answer your question - Yes, many Fjords have difficulty with canter and you really need to work at developing it. I don't have evidence or studies, but my theory is that because they are built to pull with their massive front ends, their conformation doesn't make them naturally balanced, so loading on their hind end in the canter is a bit more difficult.

Others on this board with more grounding in conformation may have more informed insights!

BTW.... After using the recommendations in this thread - especially the spiral in and out on the circle - my guy is now picking up the correct lead in both directions and our canter is developing nicely!

Overider
Sep. 16, 2009, 01:49 PM
Thanks Tiligsmom,

I just sent you a PM.

My trainer and I were discussing the rear end loading last night. I'm having the vet out to check to see if he does have any physical weakness in his hips or stifle area. Vet also does chiro so he may adjust him as well.

I'm wondering also about the lack of stamina at canter, we were theorizing that it's b/c they are so strong in front that it is very hard for them to rock back onto their rear ends and push off - he jumps into the canter and then he's not totally on his forehand but it's harder for him to sustain the canter, can't explain it.

This is a wonderful horse, he has the talent and he LOVES going to shows, doesn't want to leave, just an all around nice guy. I love this breed!!

Thanks for your reply!

Tiligsmom
Sep. 16, 2009, 02:15 PM
Overider - I just sent you a pm :)

Overider
Sep. 16, 2009, 02:33 PM
Tiligsmom - thanks so much! :)

cutemudhorse
Sep. 17, 2009, 09:21 AM
I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.


Yes, this worked great on my three year old who had been only ridden outside at first after her initial backing. Now after just a few days of this she is much more consistent on her left depart, like always gets it! But she was not very badly stiff and is balanced overall, for a three year old. Her right lead was always good.