How to Change a Horse’s Lead at the Canter

horses lead

If you’ve ever worked with a horse who is inconsistent in picking up the correct lead at the canter, you know that it can be frustrating. In fact, it’s almost impossible to get a good feel for the gait without consistent practice and the right guidance. Read more

A horse’s “lead” is determined by which leg reaches farther forward during a gallop or lope. For example, if the horse is loping on the left lead, the hind leg and the left front leg will reach farther forward than the right legs. This is the same way that your left thigh would move farther forward than your right thigh during a walk or trot.

Jockeys often give a verbal cue to change leads during a race and most horses respond quickly, changing leads when needed. However, a horse who refuses to canter on the proper lead can be problematic because his inability to change leads may result in his breaking gait and tripping over himself.

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It’s important to keep in mind that the most common reason a horse picks up the wrong lead is a physiological issue. Horses who consistently pick up the wrong lead have a tendency to be inefficient in their movement, so they don’t always respond to a light leg aid by shifting their weight and advancing the outside of their body. They need more of a push from the inside to initiate the transition. This is why it’s crucial to have tuned and reliable go-forward and slow-down cues in order to control a horse’s speed.

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