Strengthening the Left Lead on a Right Handed Horse

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by spec, Nov 9, 2018 at 3:33 PM.

  1. spec

    spec Full Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2016
    Messages:
    385
    Likes Received:
    468
    Hi everyone! I recently started riding again after a brain injury and my horse is out of shape. She is naturally a “right handed” horse. She doesn’t necessarily prefer one lead over the other (in the pasture she uses them both pretty equally, and will willingly pick up either lead with no fuss), however her right lead is a little prettier to watch and to ride than the left. I think the difference boils down to that she lifts her shoulders for me more nicely on the right and tends to be a little more on the forehand on the left. The difference is subtle but I notice. I’ve had an equine vet look at her (5 months ago prior to my injury) and say “there’s nothing that I can see wrong with that horse”. She has clean hock and hoof X-rays as of last spring and shows no signs of pain in any way. He mentioned it’s common for horses, like people, to have a dominant side. When she is in shape her right & left are almost indiscernible, so rest assured the horse is sound. Chiro has helped slightly in the past but not enough for me to think its not more of a riding problem on my part (I am right handed and stronger on my right, I wonder if I am not just making her this way due to my own shortcomings).
    Lately I have been doing counter cantering a lot since I know it’s a great strengthening exercise. She is a naturally slow, lazy pleasure horse so I have also been doing lots of extended canter work. I’m looking for more exercises to get her off the forehand. I already have some “go-to” drills that worked ok for me in the past, but all suggestions are welcome. I would love to hear insight from some dressage peeps in particular. Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. slc

    slc Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    24,051
    Likes Received:
    14,571
    'Making both leads the same' is a part of training the canter. Horses generally have one lead that is flatter and longer and less well balanced. Then the more upright lead generally appeals more to people(some people prefer the flatter lead!), but has the problem of being stiffer. Both leads are crooked, and straightening the horse makes both of the leads better. The stiff one becomes more supple, and the flatter, longer lead gets more well packaged.

    Many things people do actually makes the problem worse. If they're riding on a contact, they pull on the 'stiffer' rein more and don't get an improved contact on the looser, flatter lead side. Some people will decide the hind leg on the inside of the flatter lead 'needs to be stronger' and just work it to death, until the horse is either so sore he starts resisting the work or is actually made to be lame. It's better to just do equal work on both sides and just be sure that the weak hind leg is stepping up and doing the work.

    In general, one hind leg is less strong, and the hind quarters shift inward more on one lead, and the shoulders shift outward. Straightening the horse makes the contact on the bit evener, and exercising both hind legs (circles, transitions, shoulder in), makes the hind legs more alike and the canter leads more alike.
     
    spec likes this.
  3. CarlisleChipper

    CarlisleChipper Senior Member+

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    Messages:
    933
    Likes Received:
    490
    I had my horse at the chiro today and this is something we too are dealing with. My vet went into great detail about the etiology of it which I will be making a separate post on tonight. TL:DR it's a strength issue and stretching helps, and if chiro doesn't help the next step is chiro with acupuncture.
     
    spec likes this.
  4. Lopinslow

    Lopinslow Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Messages:
    18,055
    Likes Received:
    22,339
    Lots of lateral work, especially indirect turns (pivots, with head tipped away) will encourage her to lift those shoulders.

    As you are loping, if she gets heavy, stop, turn her opposite direction (if you were on right, tip nose to right and move shoulders over and around to the left, making sure she is crossing over in front).. drop your hands, release right leg, add left and lope off again.
     
    spec likes this.
  5. manesntails

    manesntails Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2010
    Messages:
    37,820
    Likes Received:
    72,279
    Concentrate on your position because since she naturally goes well right, you do too. Sit up, ride the left lead, and relax into it. Don't think about correcting the horse, focus on keeping your weight off the forehand and don't expect her to hold it for long at first. Building condition in both your muscles and the horse's muscles and getting in sync in rhythmn going left takes time.
     
    LoveTrail likes this.
  6. Rhythm 'n Blues

    Rhythm 'n Blues Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2007
    Messages:
    19,815
    Likes Received:
    16,969
    working turn on the forehand a few times prior to picking up the new lead. It shifts the horses weight (& riders) to the outside hind leg, which is the leg that needs to carry in the transition of the canter. This then allows the horse to come UP in front so much more. You will get a much much more lifted canter.

    Leg Yeild and all other lateral movements help, but honestly, they fail in comparison to the above exercise. This is the best exercise I've found that simple, easy for the horse to do & creates the biggest effect.
     
    spec and manesntails like this.
  7. Ziast

    Ziast Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1,862
    Likes Received:
    1,725
    Can you describe this a bit more? I'm not sure I know what you mean by "working turn on the forehand", but it sounds like a good exercise to know.
     
  8. slc

    slc Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    24,051
    Likes Received:
    14,571
    Turn on forehand isn't something I'd recommend for this. It's called 'screwing the horse into the ground' for a reason. It puts the horse on the forehand. What it's good for is laying a foundation for leg yield. But I wouldn't overdo it and wouldn't use it to fix this.

    For this, I'd work on the circles and transitions to even up the horse. If it were a more advanced horse, I'd be using shoulder in to get control of the shoulders. If the horse doesn't know shoulder in a little counterbending can help to get control of the shoulders.
     
  9. Rhythm 'n Blues

    Rhythm 'n Blues Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2007
    Messages:
    19,815
    Likes Received:
    16,969
    You say that because you clearly don’t understand the term “working turn on the forehand” cause ya....that bolded word makes a big difference and ensures one doesn’t “screw the horse into the ground”. Glad to see you’re open to trying/hearing new things SLC. :rolleyes:
     
    mooselady and manesntails like this.
  10. Rhythm 'n Blues

    Rhythm 'n Blues Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2007
    Messages:
    19,815
    Likes Received:
    16,969
    Sure thing!

    You do not want a front foot planted. You want the front end to make as little as a circle as possible but still keep the 4 beat walk going without hesitation in any feet. You then want the hind feet to make a larger circle around the the front end. Then walk straight and pick up the canter from the walk.

    The best exercise to pair it with, is start down the long side, so 2-3 steps Shoulder in (or shoulder fore if you can’t do SI). Then then and walk to about the quarter line, then working turn on the forehand 90 degrees. Walk straight back to the wall and proceed in SI again. You’ll repeat this exercise about 3 times down the long side in the same direction. Do 2-3long sides of this (so 6-9 working turn on the forehands) then as come to the short side/1st corner ask for canter. You’ll be how surprised at how soft and up lifting the horse is.

    Don’t do this with a horse who likes to canter on the spot. You’ll just accentuate it. Lol but a horse who serges off, has too big of a stride, is on the forehand, etc. this works quite well to improve the canter.
     

Share This Page