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Embarrassing Lead Problem

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  • Embarrassing Lead Problem

    Okay, although I've been riding dressage for the last 18 months or so, I've been riding horses most of my life. Topaz is probably the 6th horse I've owened. We're showing training level and doing well and schooling first level.

    My embarrasing problem is that I'm having a heck of a time telling when he's picked up the incorrect lead (he prefers the left lead and it's not physical--already did full vet work up).

    He has a very flat canter and not much reach in the shoulders. I'm working on this but I need to be able to correct him quickly if he takes the wrong lead not to mention wanting to start some counter-canter work.

    I've never had this problem with any other horse but I suspect that I've had horses that don't have lead issues and have bouncy canters.

    Even looking at his shoulders doesn't always help. I work regularly with great trainers but I'm just struggling with this and they can't figure out why I'm having such a mental block.

    Ideas or suggestions?

  • #2
    Whatever lead your horse is on you will feel your leg on that side move a little more forward in the saddle.

    Patience and Consistency are Your Friends


    • #3
      If you can't easily see it in the front, have someone work you on a lunge (if he's very trustworthy and you feel safe, try to close your eyes, if not, just really concentrate). Have your ground person tell you what lead he's on and try to feel it from the hind leg, rather than the front. The hind will have more bounce and thrust and is actually easier to feel, most people just learn it from looking down at the shoulder. Once you've figured out what it feels like from behind, you will be able to feel it on your own.
      Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


      • #4
        Shorten your stirrups a couple of holes, and work on a smaller circle than the level you are trying to ride....maybe 15-meter instead of those 20-meter. Ride a little canter one direction, go into posting trot, change direction through the middle of circle changing your posted diagonal as you change direction. Take the canter the other direction. Don't lean forward. Stop it! Tuck your seat under you a little so you can actually feel how one of your legs is slightly leading the other leg. Think about it. Think about how your body feels. Don't look at your horses ears. Trust me, they won't fall off. Change direction and do it all again, a couple of time.

        Go wide, and feel that lead. Then back to the circle, change rein through its middle, take the other lead, go wide. Feel the change. Ask yourself if one of your feet is lead as should be happening. Generally, the left foot likes to stay too far forward all the time. Make sure that is not happening in your right lead canter.


        • #5
          Had this issues years back - was told to stand in stirrups and look at horses front legs. during the 3 beat the leading forelag is on the ground - so in left lead canter that would be the left front leg (left as per mounted riders left).

          Make certain your inside hip bone is forward when you ask for canter to help get correct lead.
          Now in Kentucky


          • #6
            Don't be embarassed! Several years ago my mother bought a horse with a wonderful canter that felt great on either lead (even when it was wrong), and after years of riding not-so-good ones, I had a heck of a time figuring out which lead he was on.

            He had big shoulders, though, so peeking helped.

            I think you've gotten some great suggestions, but if you have anyone around when you ride don't be too proud to ask for a spotter for a while while you sort this out.
            "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
            -Edward Hoagland


            • #7
              Just so say, my horse and I struggled (and sometimes on rare occassion still do) because also has a very flat canter and hard to tell looking at his shoulders. He's a QH (Paint), so he's very handy even when on the incorrect lead. I've done 15m canter circles on the wrong that were quite lovely and balanced. I used to peek down to see which leg was on the ground, but since you can't see them easily (those little legs) from sitting up straight in the saddle, I'd have to lean over and that would throw things off balance. Hang in there. With training and strength, he'll want to pick up the correct lead and you'll get a sense thru your seat when it's wrong.
              "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” ~Sir Winston Churchill


              • Original Poster

                Thank you everyone for your suggestions and support! I'm going to print them out and just spend a few riding sessions working on this issue.


                • #9
                  Look down when you are cantering, you should be able to see which front leg goes forward further, that will be the lead he is on. Also, it helps if you have someone on the ground. trainer, or someone who knows a little bit about horses. also, when you are not sure, bend him to the inside, then to the outside, you will then also feel which lead he is on.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DutchDressageQueen View Post
                    Look down when you are cantering, you should be able to see which front leg goes forward further, that will be the lead he is on. Also, it helps if you have someone on the ground. trainer, or someone who knows a little bit about horses. also, when you are not sure, bend him to the inside, then to the outside, you will then also feel which lead he is on.
                    This....and....I use the rhythm and look for the last front foot to hit the ground on beat 3 of the canter...so in the canter, you would "hear" the rhythm as "buh-buh-bump.....buh-buh-bump"....the 3rd beat, or "Bump" is the front leg that tells you the lead. You still have to look down but quickly on that 3rd beat only. With just one full 3-beat canter stride, you should be able to tell. That front foot that hits LAST is the lead you are one. Hope that makes sense.