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No Left Lead

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  • No Left Lead

    Now that I've finally passed the dreaded'canter' hurdle on my guy, we've found that he doesn't do the left lead. Right lead is smooth as silk. Any suggestions? H/J trainer wants to counter bend to throw his left shoulder to the inside but I'd prefer to either work on strength and suppleness, even if that means postponing the canter a little longer, so hoping the dressage guru's here have better advice!

    I know one method is to spirial in then ask as your pushing them back out on the circle, but it seems I'm either not applying my aids correctly or he's just not able to do the left lead yet. He was just checked out by the chiro on Wednesday last week, and she was pretty happy with his overall progress, so I consider this just a next step in his overall development, but I want to do it right!
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm

  • #2
    First you will need to clarify what you mean by "doesn't do". Does canter left lead on the lunge? Has physical issue been ruled out yet?


    • #3
      When Boy "doesn't do" the left lead he's ready for hock injections. He would pick it up on the lunge and at liberty but if he got it under saddle he would kind of scramble for it. This was a horse that never had trouble with leads. Took him to the vet... hocks were sore.
      Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
      Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
      "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


      • #4
        I assume this is a young horse and canter is still new to him?

        Work on straightness and ambidexterity to both sides. Have a ground person or your instructor really examine YOUR position. Best way is to stand outside the arena or the circle you're riding on. You may be making it hard for the horse to canter left and not even know it! I see it happen all the time.

        I dislike the counterbend method of canter depart. Have had better luck with really sitting back and straight and "lifting" the inside shoulder to canter. RESIST the urge to lean forward at the moment of depart -- tipping forward only makes it harder for the horse to lift into canter. If your horse can do shoulder-in or shoulder-fore, try the depart out of that. If he can't, teach him that and it should make the depart easier.

        Don't let him rush headlong into the canter if you can help it. I know it happens when they're just learning it, but it makes for an unbalanced canter. If he rushes about, stop, regroup and start again. Half-halt to give him a 'warning" something's about to change before the depart.

        Just throwing out a bunch of suggestions for you. He'll get it eventually, be sure you're not part of the problem!

        It helps to read for comprehension -- just reread your post and it does sound like he's a youngster. You'll be fine -- work on strengthening him through transitions between gaits or to and from halt, leg yields, begin shoulder-fore. After a few weeks of that, he should be ready to canter.


        • #5
          I was havng a similar problem with one of mine, my instructor had me do a shallow loop serpentine and ask as the horse's shoulder got back to the rail. It worked remarkably well most of the time...


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by ponysize View Post
            First you will need to clarify what you mean by "doesn't do". Does canter left lead on the lunge? Has physical issue been ruled out yet?
            He's not young, but he's just coming into real work after 6 years of inconsistancy, being ridden 2x/week by a really good h/j rider and 3x by me. I definitely feel I'm part of the problem, but other rider is a lot more balanced and skilled than me and she also has difficulty getting the left lead. He also has trouble with it on the lunge... will cross canter, etc., so I think its a strength/suplleness issue and I am willing to table it for a little longer while we work to build some muscle on his weaker side. Other rider is not a pro, but could be, and she's willing to go along with whatever program I lay out for him.

            My question is, should we continue to let him canter on the right lead while we resolve his strength issue, or postpone canter work altogether until he's more evenly developed on both sides of his body? I also intensely disagree with counterbending, but since rider is my h/j trainer's DD, she's learned to do this and it does work after a few tries. I just don't want to fall into that trap with him.
            Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
            Witherun Farm


            • #7
              Rather than counterflexion, have you tried looking over your
              outside shoulder as you ask? I have had success with this


              • #8
                Originally posted by Trevelyan96 View Post
                . He also has trouble with it on the lunge... will cross canter, etc., so I think its a strength/suplleness issue and I am willing to table it for a little longer while we work to build some muscle on his weaker side. Other rider is not a pro, but could be, and she's willing to go along with whatever program I lay out for him.
                Horse needs a soundness evaluation. Something physical is preventing him from picking up his leads and it could be a number of things.


                • #9
                  ^ This.

                  OTOH, one of my students has an aged Arab who had trouble with his left lead last summer. Cross cantered and swapped leads. A winter off (She works a LOT and has no indoor) and he's now cantering with no problem both ways. We suspect now that he'd tweaked himself and time off helped him. Obviously different problems, different solutions.

                  Sometimes it really is a weakness/lack of suppleness, and nothing a vet can find. But be sure before you proceed.


                  • #10
                    Soundness issues aside- I agree with those posters who say this horse needs to build up the correct muscle. they all seem to have a favored side or lead.

                    the current mare i am working with, have been for a little over a week - she was very spotty in regards to her right lead. it was a mix of muscling but also "i can't" ... you could watch her trying really hard - she knew the request but just couldn't quite figure out how to do it- it would be like me trying to pick up a pen and write with my right hand. I know how to write, i just can't make my right hand do it.

                    so finally she started doing it on the longe line - getting praise and being left alone to canter when she got it correct. No nitpicking- just get the lead right. If she didn't i'd bring her down to trot right away, let her relax and when the time was right, ask her again.

                    Slowly but surely, she'd start getting it.

                    Then under saddle we went through the same process. I'd ask her, if she picked it up wrong i'd either bring her back or let her go and just change direction so it was correct- and then do a proper downward transition to trot, change direction and ask for the correct bend, and then ask again. No nitpicking for her to get fussy about - just bring her back and put it back together, ask again. I could tell and feel in her head she was trying - you could feel her go for it, and then at the last minute she'd take these itty bitty steps and swap it, and then get flustered - her head would come up, she'd start tossing her body around, etc. So it took a lot of patience and consistency, and honestly positive support and encouragement for her.

                    Once we had a quality trot again, i'd make the circle a little smaller (she's teeny tiny- like 14.1hh) got the bend correct on the smaller circle she'd get the right lead canter under saddle. Once she got it i'd just let her go, let her relax into it, and when the moment was right, bring her back down. As a rider you could feel the correctness of the bend, the feel on the outside rein felt right, her hip was aligned, voila.

                    She still can't really pick it up correctly on a straight line, but on a 20 m circle she's accurate 95% of the time, just a week later. We're chipping away at it, and with more consistent work she'll have it in no time.

                    I am sure others with much more experience will chime in too. this has just been my experience with this particular horse. Good luck!
                    My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                    • #11
                      My horse has trouble with her right lead. If we haven't been in consistent work, it is the first thing to go out the window (lots of swapping behind, etc.). It gets better and better with more consistent work. What specifically works for my horse to improve her "bad" direction is: Cross-training: hacking out, hill work, trotting and cantering over uneven terrain. Transitions: lots & lots of trot-canter and walk-canter transitions. When the right lead is very weak, we might just canter on that lead for a couple of steps. Slowly she will be able to increase the number of strides until the the right lead canter is much more consistent. "Good" lead: she naturally wants to bend to the left. It's so tempting to go with this, but I try to keep her straighter than she offers on the left to force her to use her right side more. Lots & lots of suppling and lateral work. In March I could not canter her to the right even for half a circle without a swap behind. Now it's almost "normal". Not as lovely as her left lead canter, but just about acceptable. We're getting there.
                      -Debbie / NH

                      My Blog: http://deborahsulli.blogspot.com/


                      • #12
                        Providing there is no underlying soundness issue...

                        I would tackle it on the longe first - from a nice rhythmic trot, ask for canter. For a horse that cross-fires or picks up the wrong lead - a good trick is to aim the flick of the whip just in front of the horse's loin area. This causes a contraction of the inside and makes them more likely to pick up the lead.

                        Once it is reliable on the longe (correct lead off of voice aid) I try under saddle. I pick up a 20 meter circle, and as I am approaching the wall, I will ask for canter with my body as well as voice cue and pair it with a flick of the dressage whip on the inside to cause that same contraction to the inside.

                        I have successfully retrained canter on OTTB's and some other horses that were canter-challenged (NOT because of soundness issues) in this manner. It's a fairly low-key way to do it. I do NOT allow them to continue to canter on the wrong lead. I bring them back quietly and do it again. I also do not chase the horse into it.

                        Hope this helps.


                        • #13
                          ^^^^ this.

                          just remember that you are asking your horse to be ambidextrous - so it would be like you trying to write with both hands the same..... you need to give your horse the work it needs to become more even side to side and when that all is good the canter will be there - like magic