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green baby horse missing leads, tips....

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    green baby horse missing leads, tips....

    My green bean 4yo, has a hard time getting his right lead. Some days it’s great, some days it’s 4-5 try’s before we get it. He’s had about six months under saddle, and it’s been very sporadic work. I will also say, I have started about ten youngsters undersaddle and none of them have had issues like him. He’s super balanced, and this is also observed at times on the lunge line. He tends to pick up the wrong leads going both ways, so I cannot say it’s only a one sided. After more time though, the right lead seems more difficult. When we first started the canter, he would miss both directions. I see him in the counter canter regularly in the pasture on both leads.

    Currently I work him towards the feeling of bringing his shoulders in front of his hips to cue for the canter. He’s a bit lazy, and tends to fall to the outside and then pick up the wrong lead. I do not want to start him in a haunches in feeling, but if needed, I will. I always try to ask in places that set him up for success. He’s finally broke enough I am comfortable asking for more. Any tips or new training ideas would be appreciated. He’s a wonderful horse, and I would love advice from people that have worked with a similar issue. I am going to do a basic soundness exam on him this fall, but because some days he is solid on both leads.... not sure if it’s a physical issue, or just him needing more clarification in his body position issue. I have never made a big deal of it, I just keep correcting until it’s right.

    I would say a four year old in very sporadic work is probably neither strong nor balanced. see how he goes when he's in more regular work. for now, counter canter.
    Let me apologize in advance.


      Original Poster

      He’s actually very well balanced walk trot, scored a 70 plus percent at an intro test, from a rated judge, at a schooling show. I don’t know if I agree with counter cantering him at this point..... I prefer for him to be on the correct lead. I don’t want to encourage the incorrect lead at this point.


        I have a big, slow gelding that has been doing the same thing since he was backed last year. He does it on the lunge line about 50/50. He has been in regular work since the spring and it hardly happens at all now, He is also super balanced in the canter and I think he finds the counter canter easy. I try to make sure that my timing is correct and my coach recommends lots of changes of direction so he doesn’t get too tired on one hind leg.
        Manage your horse information with the Horsekeeping App


          counter canter is not the incorrect lead

          As you were
          Let me apologize in advance.


            Agree with the post above: a lot of this could very well just be fitness. Focus on the quality of the gaits and just canter on the straightaway, transitioning down before a corner/bend on the wrong lead if he gives you the wrong lead - or quietly change it through the corner as desired. I don't necessarily see there being a need to really focus on a horse that's not getting the leads consistently, especially with just six months under saddle in sporadic work.

            That said, there are horses out there who are naturally balanced and capable of using themselves that they just don't care what lead they're on. Embrace the fact that counter canter work will be easy in their maturity (and then cringe at the idea of teaching them changes after that), and accept the gift you've been given if this is the case. I had one of these - didn't care what lead, and if the preparation into the transition weren't impeccable, he would just pick whichever lead was easiest at the time with no distinct preference for one over the other. (Incidentally, we loved the full canter serpentine that showed up in test 2-3. )

            Of course you can always work on making some riding choices to make a specific lead significantly easier. I would run away - screaming - from any idea of haunches in prior to the canter. If anything, shoulder fore (and then come off the wall into a half 20m. circle) and pick your transition up there. Only works if you're capable of keeping the horse together in the outside rein - your guy may not be there yet. Likewise, you can look at doing a big figure 8 - 2 circles, exaggerate the change of bend at X. (If the goal is the right lead, you start a 20m circle tracking right, at X transition to a circle left - it may be a bit smaller, but allow for his greenness to dictate what he's ready for, the smaller the circle the more the degree of bend and the more you're asking - and then straighten as you approach X again and exaggerate your change of bend back to the right and ask for the depart at that time.)

            However, exercises aside..a 4yo that's iffy on picking up the correct lead doesn't really bother me. Barring any other signs of discomfort or physical issue, I'd just do as mentioned above and keep whatever lead through a straightaway, transition before a turn, and work on building the foundation of an education on a 4yo.


              Original Poster

              So if I can get him into the correct lead after 3-4 quick tries, is that wrong? I still have him canter, but I am trying to make sure he’s on the true lead for the direction since I am in a standard large dressage ring. I have no doubt CC will be easy for him. I do the shoulder in feel to set him up. I hope to take a lesson on him soon with my GP trainer to discuss this as well, and get his perspective on it.


                I mean, I don't think it's inherently wrong - but I'd maybe zoom back and look at the bigger picture. So to speak, is this really the hill you want to die on? Ultimately, getting the lead you're asking for is likely to get easier and easier the stronger he becomes and the more developed he gets in his education (leg, seat, hand). You can keep correcting ("no, I asked for left, not right") but I think that it might be a case of losing the forest for the trees, a little bit. If you dial the canter back to think of just cantering on the straightaway, there's no "correct" or "incorrect" lead (which I think is what ladyj79 was addressing in her post). If he's not on the proper lead to canter through a corner/bend when it's picked up, have a plan to do something - work on packaging for a beautiful and balanced downwards transition before the corner. If it is the proper lead to canter through a corner at this stage of his development, then take it as a gift and do a little more with it (cantering a circle, for example)...but for a four year old, I'd be more interested in looking at the rhythm of the gaits (both preparing for the transition & after the transition), the balance, connection, relaxation (how is he using himself, etc) than what lead it is he's picking up.

                Maybe in your rides it would be beneficial to consider trying a different approach to the canter - instead of thinking of leads as "correct" and "incorrect", focus on the transitions around it (up and down). If the lead is one for the direction is on, you can continue through corners, but pre-plan and know what you will do if it is not (how you will balance for a good transition, what you will do after the transition down, etc). Maybe reducing the pressure/expectations on the gait for a little while could be helpful to reframe that part of your ride. After all, he is just four and it sounds like he has made some very nice progress to this point!
                Last edited by Edre; Oct. 20, 2019, 10:12 PM. Reason: Whoops, wrong word.


                  Is he picking the wrong canter or is he cross firing?
                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


                    Original Poster

                    He is not cross firing.


                      I'm not a fan of doing it wrong over and over, no matter what it is.

                      Lisa Wilcox or Debbie MacDonald clinic nugget I picked up years ago that I believe makes sense was along the lines of doing it wrong when you practice, means you're practicing doing it wrong.
                      Of course with leads there is no wrong... so start asking him to do each... counter and the correct lead. Teach him to do both, so then you can ask and get whichever you ask for.
                      Doing that may show you what either/both of you is doing that gets you the wrong answer, if you kwim.
                      Especially with changes when you get to those. Even if that means you hire a trainer to ride those, correctly, exclusively til they're established.

                      Meanwhile, fitness, doing the basics that serve as the foundation of cantering and changes so they're strong and responsive, and also considering, depending on breed, that cantering might not be possible now due to a growth spurt or growth that has them even a little "off"/uneven presently.

                      Four is young. You have time.
                      Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014



                        Well I have a slightly out of the box idea. On the long side ASK for the counter canter. Trot before the turn. Use what he’s doing to TEACH him the aid.

                        Once he’s understanding the aid I would maybe ask on the diagonal somewhere round X and if he grabs the right correct lead you turn and canter. If he makes a mistake either trot or turn the other way.

                        Horses tell us how how they learn, we just have to listen. For me your horse just gave you valuable information into how he will learn. If it works, I’d be remembering it for when I started the changes.

                        He becomes successful and you aren’t frustrated and you have a way to progress the training in a non confrontational way. Best of luck!


                          Originally posted by RTF View Post
                          So if I can get him into the correct lead after 3-4 quick tries, is that wrong? I still have him canter, but I am trying to make sure he’s on the true lead for the direction since I am in a standard large dressage ring. I have no doubt CC will be easy for him. I do the shoulder in feel to set him up. I hope to take a lesson on him soon with my GP trainer to discuss this as well, and get his perspective on it.
                          Good idea to consult your GP trainer. They should easily have an answer for you.

                          I agree with LadyB. This is likely a fitness or training hole issue. No need to get upset over the wrong lead. It is not like you are teaching them to take the wrong lead! Leads are about cues, not direction. At this point your horse lacks a very basic piece of training. Nothing to worry about, my mare struggled with the canter and her left lead. At this point last year we could hardly canter and definitely not get left lead. This summer she won her Region Training level and was 3rd in our province. These things take time and patience.

                          The aid you are giving is to canter. Let them canter on the wrong lead for at least the long wall before going back to trot. Do some other work to strengthen your connection at trot then ask again when the horse is relaxed. Make sure your body is in the correct position. You never want to discipline the wrong lead, they mistake it for thinking you don't want them to canter.

                          Depending how far along your horse is, if they are ready a good exercise is to leg yield centerline to the wall, in the corner walk transition, 3 steps back to trot, immediately down centerline, leg yield again, walk transition 3 steps back to trot, repeat over and over until your horse is relaxed and working properly through the corner. When you feel ready, instead of walk transition you ask to canter.
                          Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                            Originally posted by RTF View Post

                            I work him towards the feeling of bringing his shoulders in front of his hips to cue for the canter. He’s a bit lazy, and tends to fall to the outside and then pick up the wrong lead. I do not want to start him in a haunches in feeling, but if needed, I will. I always try to ask in places that set him up for success
                            Leave his shoulders alone apart from straightening them so he can't fall to the outside. Do NOT start him in haunches in or you will turn him into a confused little pretzel.

                            I know you say that you are asking in places (plural) that set him up for success but I'd have to disagree because there is one spot for success for greenies. If you are doing a 20m circle (or 30m or whatever is the width of your arena) you do that circle closest to "home" barn door end of arena and only ask on the last 1/4 of the open side so that the inside leg is the one that is going to want to be going "home". Do this on the longe line. Make sure your outside side rein is NOT longer than your inside side rein (or you can use just one side rein on the outside) and repeat until there are no mistakes. THEN, get on after cementing the lead on the longe and ask in exactly the same way in exactly the same place. Do not fart around with bending or putting shoulders anywhere, just make sure the outside shoulder is straight and your aids are clear.

                            If you screw it up when you get back on to try it ridden, get back off and do a few on the longe line to refresh the subject, and then get back on and try again. Repeat as necessary.

                            Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.


                              To help clarify the lead, I like a little leg yield from the second track or quarter line to the rail and ask for the canter right as the shoulders hit the rail.

                              Also, while he is still figuring this out, I'd let him lean on the rail a little bit to help stay straighter, rather than trying to ride the hips and shoulders super straight - in the training pyramid, straightness is not at the bottom for a reason. Too much outside rein trying to keep the shoulders straight might be pushing him off balance a bit and off the correct lead.


                                So with your experience, I assume you can feel where he set he's from positioned in his body for the correct lead to positioned for the incorrect lead. When does it happen?

                                My baby horse prefers the left lead, and just before she picks up the canter she will shift her rib cage into my right leg and pick up the left lead with the bend she has now put in her body. I do three things to help this: 1) exaggerate leg yield on a circle into the canter 2) get a really engaged trot so the transition to canter will be so instant she doesn't have time to switch and 3) have my trainer school it more than I do, because simply put he's a better rider than I am, thus me paying him.
                                if you ask for canter from a posting trot, changing diagonals is a quick and easy fix for many horses. Getting a prompt response also helps - and teaching it off a voice aid on the longe is always a great idea, barring leg issues which prevent that. There are many other exercises possible depending on the specifics of how your horse is getting the wrong lead, since if the body positioning is correct it will not happen.
                                If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                  Leg yield quarter track to wall. Sit and ask.

                                  I may correct the lead the first time it is wrong but if it is pick up again then a ride a gentle turn so that I'm on the correct lead going the opposite direction. On a horse that is naturally a bit behind the leg I don't want to punish forward.

                                  If you have access to a GP trainer I don't know if most of us are going to have deeper toolboxes than them.


                                    Originally posted by RTF View Post
                                    I do the shoulder in feel to set him up. I hope to take a lesson on him soon with my GP trainer to discuss this as well, and get his perspective on it.

                                    Coming back to add to what I said above as I just saw this. We don't use shoulder in to get the correct lead on a green horse. It is too easy to let that outside shoulder fall out which then sets the poor horse up for nothing but the wrong lead. We use shoulder in before/during canter LATER when the leads are confirmed as a straightening and strengthening tool.

                                    Also wanted to reiterate - go back to the longe and get clean, sharp transitions before you try again under saddle.
                                    Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.


                                      Originally posted by GraceLikeRain View Post

                                      If you have access to a GP trainer I don't know if most of us are going to have deeper toolboxes than them.
                                      Not every GP trainer is a baby starter
                                      Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.


                                        I would say he is young, and not quite strong enough to be balanced in both directions.

                                        Are you setting him up for success by asking heading into a corner? I would never ask were I not, on a greenie.

                                        You said he is lazy and not too forward always. That too can be a contributory factor. Forward is your friend.
                                        So insist on forward by doing walk trot transitions, and make the sharp, then head into your corner.
                                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.