Monday, June 12, 2017

The Illusive Right Lead

Since returning from vacation, I've lunged Annie a few times and ridden a few times. Most of last week was spent stringing up electric fencing so we could turn the horses out in the back paddock (finally!).

We still trailer!
And now since that has been completed, I have been able to put a few rides onto the mare and at first, I felt kind of hopeless in a sense, because she reverted back to #drunkdolphin status. The good news is that with each ride I put on her, it feels like she is starting to get back to where she was before I left. 

The trail riding has gotten progressively better - she hasn't jigged at all and moseys quietly along which is really nice to see. During a short trail ride around the fairgrounds after a school, she followed quietly behind AJ (typically she tries to wrestle herself ahead of whoever the lead horse is). We even cantered down a stretch of trail, which was a lot of fun!

I have slowly been introducing the neck stretcher into our lunging regime, and Annie is not quite sure what to make of it. Her first introduction commenced A LOT of chomping and worried eyes - so we will just continue to plug away at it and see how it goes. We had a bit of a frustrating lunging school where she wouldn't pick up her right lead and ended up swinging her haunches to the outside and just halting whenever I asked. I managed to get after her and have her canter on the wrong lead since she started to get pissy with me asking her to canter a million times. The lunge probably didn't set us up for the best ride, but it was still pretty decent despite some minor hiccups.

 

Even while riding, the right lead is still painfully elusive and it sometimes is really good on the lunge and sometimes (like today) it completely disappears. I have been playing around with different approaches to see what works, and I haven't been able to find a concrete solution yet.

Despite this, we completed our entire school this afternoon in an unfenced area and it was really lovely (aside from when Annie got pissy when I put my outside leg on during the canter and bucked). The bucks themselves just felt like sassiness as I was manipulating her and hopefully they will fizzle out as she learns to use her body WITH me vs against me.

But still, we are plugging away at a lot of things, including the fly spray and random little things like standing quietly in the arena for 20 minutes while mom talks to friends.

The mule is tired.


She feels better, but I think this right lead issue is going to be our biggest hurdle. From what I have been told, it isn't uncommon for greenies to have this issue. Anyone else have experience with this? Helpful tips/ ideas? I am booked into a clinic next month so if we haven't figured it out by then, hopefully we can get some professional help. Before the short riding break, we had more success getting the lead as she got stronger, but I worry that I am ruining her or causing more harm than good by "giving up" on that lead and going back to other schooling? I just didn't see the point in attempting and re-attempting the lead when we weren't getting anywhere, even with the little tricks I've been taught.

Oh, greenies.

14 comments:

  1. Oh yes, the right lead struggle. I do think that's a very common young horse issue. An exercise that JW has used for Emi and I is actually trotting across the diagonal and picking the canter up as you are reaching the wall. You can see that in action in many of our clinic videos. It's helpful because they begin to understand the exercise and go on their own. The wall also helps them shift their weight and makes the correct lead easier.

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion! We have actually added this into our training regime :)

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  2. Most horses seem to have a stronger/weaker side -- all of the horses I've trained myself struggle more to the right (so clearly the issue is something I'm causing haha). I know what helped us was to work on strengthening the right lead on the lunge, so it was easier under saddle, but YMMV! I think mostly it's a young horse struggle, and I have no doubt you will overcome it!

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    1. For sure - most horses I've ridden seem to have a good side and a bad side.

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  3. Bridget had no left lead at all. Idea...leg yield in trot to the corner, then pick up canter. If you time it right and she's correctly bent it should make it easier for her to pick up the lead. Other idea would be more boring, but work on squares to help keep the shoulders straight and haunches in/spirals to get that inside hind stronger.

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    1. B is too cute she doesn't need a left lead. hahaha.

      Thank you for the ideas - we've started to incorporate them :)

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  4. charlie has gone back and forth with which lead was his 'problem' lead - at first it was the right, then it became the left (in a really f*ing big way omg), and now sometimes it's the right again. idk. it's green horses. and imo the aid to canter is one of the most unique and rider-specific aids horses must learn. so sometimes it's just a process.

    there are like.... zillions of patterns or exercises that you can try. Alanna's above of going across the diagonal is a good one. or T's with the leg yield. i would also sometimes do a half circle return to rail (a tear drop) picking up the lead as we reach the rail. with charlie - i always asked for canter in the same places to help him develop context clues and understand, 'oh yea, this is where we canter!' or i positioned a ground pole on the diagonal and cued for the canter as he was going over the ground pole.

    but sometimes that lead was just damn sticky. and rather than get in a big fight about it, if we misfired a couple times in a row, i would just continue on the incorrect lead and find a way to change directions such that the lead was thus correct. cruise long enough to develop a good balance and feel, then change directions and ask for a simple change of lead through trot. sometimes charlie had an easier time doing the simple change than picking it up correctly the first time. my dressage trainer told me that once he did finally pick up the correct lead, not to canter him around on it forever - just maybe a half a circle or a circle or something, just short, and then bring him down again and reward. good luck!

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    1. ooooh i just remembered another one (bc yea this is a pervasive issue lol, we should get like, club t-shirts or something haha):

      ride a snowman shape of circles at the short end of an arena. on your 20m circle, as you approach the open end crossing center line, change directions to ride a smaller circle. as you return back to complete that smaller circle, change back to the original direction on your original circle and immediately ask for canter as you ask for change in bend.

      supposedly the figure 8 movement, and specifically the smaller circle on the opposite direction, helps get the horse's shoulders more lifted so that it's easier for them to strike off. this is also another pattern that they can get the hang of and learn such that it becomes easier with practice.

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    2. Thank you for the in depth reply!! I like the idea of the tear drop shape... I can safely say I've actually never ridden that type of figure before - it intrigues me!

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  5. It's hard for greenies to stay balanced and pick up some leads. Add in the weight of a rider and it can feel impossible. I would focus on the balance and straightness of the walk and trot and ask for canters when those feel great. Some rides I never cantered at all.

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    1. I am probably one of the most uncoordinated people out there so I imagine the struggle Annie has trying to canter with me up there lol

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  6. I have the exact same problem. It is not totally fixed and comes back with a vengeance when she is nervous. But, my coach offered me two things that helped: one was practicing hanches-in to set up her body for it, and second was to not stop her when she got the wrong lead to not punish 'forward'. Funny thing I noticed was that once we started working on other things like jumping and I was not even thinking about leads, she would get the lead just fine. Go figure!

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    1. It is funny how things will just naturally go fine when we aren't thinking about them! I just had that happen to me during our ride today!

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  7. Super behind but my greenie does this. Need to read more because I'm sure you've worked on it by now haha

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