View Full Version : unwanted lead change over fences

Jul. 19, 2011, 09:27 PM
My horse has a tendency to fall out with his right shoulder going left. We work on this with strong outside aids, counterbending, etc. When jumping this lack of straightness manifests with him often switching from left to right lead over fences. Again I am using strong right aids to keep him straight, but he still does it about 25% of the time. He does it much less often with my trainer (of course), but still will occasionally switch. I wondered if anyone had any tips or suggestions, other than what I am doing. Thanks!

Jul. 19, 2011, 10:41 PM
Well, for starters I'd ask WHY is he doing this? It's not just to annoy you..he is either weaker on one side or has some discomfort on one side.

I'd maybe get a massage or chiro to see what his body tells you. Assuming that, teeth, and saddle all check out I'd focus on his flatwork. Lots of straightening exercises (which will also be strengthening exercises)...

one that we use a lot is shoulder in (trot) around the short side, begin the long side in shoulder in, then pick up the counter canter down the rest of the long side, very straight. Transition to trot before the short side, develop shoulder in again, start down long side in shoulder in, counter canter, cross the short diagonal to true lead, maintaining straightness and self carriage.

I would bet that if he's not hurting, a month or two of straightness and real attention to working both sides absolutely equally on the flat will help his jumping.

Jul. 19, 2011, 10:55 PM
For a quick fix: When I was a hunter rider (oh, the horror!!!!) we had to come up with "tricks" to get the greenies to land on the correct lead if their changes were not well-schooled yet. To do that we would apply a little left rein - just touching or moving the bit very subtly - over the fence to suggest to the horse that when we landed we would be turning left. Keep your left leg at the girth to prevent them from diving left on landing.

Of course, the above doesn't fix the underlying issue with your horse but it may be a quick fix in the mean time when needed. I agree with Asterix that we would need to know why he does this to really solve the underlying problem.

Jul. 19, 2011, 11:13 PM
Thanks for the ideas. It seems to be mostly a strength problem. As well as a rider problem--he is much straighter for my trainer (she doesn't ride him consistently, though, just hops on him occasionally during a lesson). Asterix, I like your "straightening" excercises.

Oops, just noted I had originally written he switches from right to left lead over fences, but it is actually the opposite. I corrected it in my original post.

Jul. 20, 2011, 08:32 AM
Does he do it more or less depending on the distance you get coming in? Many horses will switch off from a longish spot as a compensating measure for the weakness of the trajectory.

I ditto all the above on the flat, but would also do a significant amount of work when you do jump, jumping with a slight bend to the inside of the lead you want to land on. Jump on a big circle, use a little opening rein, land and keep turning on the big circle and make sure you have those outside aids blocking his shoulder from popping out. Do the majority of your over fences work to the weak direction for a month or so. Then see what you have.

Many times overcompensating with the bend to the weak side will really help them even it up and get comfortable with it. Just like if you aren't a lefty, you can still greatly improve your ability to do things with your left hand with practice. Mary King wrote about doing something similar with one of her four star horses that jumped to the left in this month's Practical Horseman -- always landing and turning right, landing and turning right, until eventually the horse figured out the jumping left was counterproductive. Same idea. Be patient, it could take a while. And could come back if he has time off.

Jul. 20, 2011, 06:52 PM
One thing to think about: to land on the left lead he must actually land on his RIGHT foot first, then his left one lands and he is on the left lead. To land on his right lead his LEFT foot hits the ground first. Could it be that he doesn't want to land on his right foot. Maybe it hurts?