Horse Training Tips – Lead Tips

Dear Friend and Horseman,

Welcome to another Horse Training Tips Newsletter.

A couple of my members emailed me with very good questions about leads and lead changes. I thought it may be beneficial to share them with you.

Question

Hi Larry,

Do you have a video that will talk about feeling the leads? I have ridden all my life but never cared before…the horse took care of it. Now I am riding in an arena and leads are important.

My horse is very smooth and one side feels just like the other!

I have read a hundred books and watched other trainer’s videos about leads but they don’t tell you how to feel them!

I can’t ride him in performances until I can feel the leads.

Also, do you know how to teach a horse the leads by moving the shoulders over rather than moving the hind quarters over? I have heard it is a much better method and that you can do flying changes easily after they know this.

I would appreciate any help.

LaDora

My reply:

Hi LaDora,

Here is how you can feel what lead your horse is on.

If you will pay attention, you will notice that if the horse is on the “left” lead,
your left “thigh” will be farther forward than your other thigh.

And, vise-versa when the horse is on his right lead.

In other words, when the horse is on the left lead, the left side of the rider’s body will be slightly leading (farther forward) the other side of his body.

Getting a horse to pick up a particular lead by moving his shoulders in the direction of the lead, is fine when you first start working with a horse.

However, over time, you really need to teach him to pick up the lead by moving his HINDQUARTERS in the direction of the desired lead. This “hindquarter first” lead
departure is CRITICAL if you hope to have control over which lead the horse takes.

In a nut shell, if you want the horse to pick up the left lead, keep the horse’s
shoulders straight and move his hindquarters to the left as you ask for the lope.


Always remember, its the hindquarters that dictate the lead. Not the shoulders.

If you get the horse to pick up the correct lead behind, the front end will automatically pick up the correct lead also. However, getting the lead in front is no guarantee the horse will pick it up behind.

The “hindquarter first” lead departure is also mandatory for laying the foundation for a good FLYING LEAD CHANGE.

You should WANT your horse to do a “hindquarter first” lead change as this is the
smoothest, most reliable lead change there is.

Asking a horse to change leads “shoulder first”, will often cause a horse to MISS
his hind lead. Plus, it’s not as smooth and takes the horse an extra stride to complete.

Now, after saying that, keep in mind some horses are natural lead changers that will change beautifully no matter what. And of course, there is the other kind that won’t change for nothin’.

Larry Trocha
Larry Trocha Training Stable
HorseTrainingVideos.com

Another email question:

Hi Larry,

I’m having problems with my leads and lead changes and was hoping you might give me some advice.

When I ask my horse to pick up the right lead, a lot of times he won’t. I move his hindquarters to the right and then kick him to lope but he’ll go into the wrong lead anyway.

Same thing when I ask him to do a flying lead change. I’ll try to move his hindquarters over to get the change but he’ll usually not get the hind lead. He ends up in the correct lead in front and the wrong lead behind.

Is it me or the horse? What can I do?

Jack
P.S. I have one of your Inner Circle videos. It’s awesome. I want to get more but see that you have closed the Inner Circle program. Any way to just get the tapes?

My reply:

Hi Jack,

I’ll address your question about the Inner Circle videos first. Yes, I plan on making the Inner Circle videos available. The information they contain is too good not to share. Call my assistant, Bev and she’ll tell you the deal. 707-665-0833.

Okay, lets get to your problem with the leads.

Keep in mind that without actually seeing you ride the horse, I can only guess what is happening. However, your problem is a common one that I’ve seen many times so I’m pretty sure I know what’s going wrong.

I believe there are actually two separate things that are causing your problem.

Reason #1. When you are moving the horse’s hindquarters over to cue for the lead, you are unknowingly letting the horse’s shoulders drift that direction too… causing the horse to pick up the wrong lead behind.

If you are going to ask your horse to pick up the left lead, you need to move his hindquarters to the left AND make sure his shoulders stay put. It may even be helpful to hold the shoulders a little to the right.

Remember, ONLY the hindquarters should move in the direction of the lead. If you let the shoulders move in that direction, it cancels out the hindquarters.

This advice goes for lead departures as well as flying lead changes.

Reason #2. You are trying to use your legs for positioning the hindquarters as well as a cue to accelerate into the lope… and that won’t work(at least not on a green horse).

Whenever we use our legs to move a horse’s hindquarters over to pick up a certain lead, we are in fact “positioning” his body with our legs. We need to keep our leg on the horse so his hindquarters stay in position as he picks up the lope.

Once he is in the lope on the correct lead, we release our leg.

Because our legs are used for positioning in this maneuver, its necessary that we have a different cue to ask the horse to accelerate into the lope.

If we try to use our legs for both positioning AND accelerating, it confuses the horse and makes him unsure of what we want.

So, once I have moved the horse’s hindquarters over, I cluck or kiss to him as his cue to pick up the lope. That way I can keep his hindquarters where I want them as I ask him to lope… There are no conflicting signals to confuse the horse.

I suggest you practice your lead departures while riding at a walk, next to a fence. Let’s say the fence is on your right and you want to pick up the left lead…

First, pick up your reins and move them slightly to the right to block the horse’s shoulders from moving off the fence.

Second, move your right leg back a little, turn your toe out and apply enough pressure to move the horse’s hindquarters over to the left. Push the hindquarters away from the fence about a foot or two. Keep them there as you continue to walk forward. (your horse will be two-tracking down the fence).

Third, with the horse’s hindquarters pushed to the left, cluck to the horse to ask him to lope.

If the horse lopes off on the correct lead, release all leg and rein pressure and let him go.

If he picks up the wrong lead, correct him by stopping immediately, move his hindquarters to the left and ask for the lope again. Repeat as many times as necessary for him to take the lead.

Here are some common mistakes when asking for “left” lead departures.

Mistake #1: Letting the horse’s shoulders drift and not keeping them right next to the fence.

Mistake #2: Not keeping the horse’s hindquarters to the left as the horse breaks into the lope. Just as the horse starts to lope, the rider will mess up and release the hindquarters too soon. Thus, missing the lead.

Mistake #3: The horse doesn’t pick up the lope when the rider clucks to him. You need to have your horse conditioned to accelerate when he hears the cluck. During your normal rides, cluck to the horse, if he doesn’t speed up, pop him on the butt.

Mistake #4: The horse isn’t broke. To do lead departures or changes that are consistent and look good, the horse needs to have good initial training.

He needs to be supple, he needs to lightly move away from pressure and he needs to be good in the face. If any of these ingredients are missing, performance will be inconsistent and way below par.

It may be hard for you to grasp a mental picture of all this just from reading. However, once you actually see it in action, it’ll make perfect sense to you.

To see this in action, I suggest you watch my video on flying lead changes.

It wouldn’t hurt to watch my foundation training video, either. The one on turns, circles and leads.

I should also say, the training and cueing techniques that I have outlined above work extremely well on a wide variety of horses. However, those techniques are not the only way to get this done. Just a very good way.

Good luck.

Larry Trocha
Larry Trocha Training Stable
HorseTrainingVideos.com

I hope this information helps you. Let me know if you found it valuable.

Well, this wraps it up for this newsletter. I hope you liked it.

Until next time, have fun training your horse.


Larry Trocha
www.HorseTrainingVideos.com

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Comments

  1. Anna says

    Hi Larry, I have a green broke horse, and it is his first year of 4h with me. I have never really paid attention to changing leads until now, and he doesnt know either. Are there any simple ways to teach him the lead changes so we can qualify for the senior division?
    Thanks

  2. Jo says

    Hi Larry,
    I really enjoy your newsletters and your DVD’s. I have a green colt who i have probably put about 30 rides on, i feel pretty happy with him generally but i have been having some trouble getting him to pick up a lead nicely. I have just started riding him in spurs so i havent got a lot done with manouvering the hindquarters at a walk. He is one who is a bit unwilling to increase his speed, initialy it took me a lot of work and a pop on the shoulder to get him to lope off at all and it kind of worried him, he’s getting more confident and more responsive but it still takes me a little bit to get him up into a lope. I can certainly position him in the arena to get a lead by cheating a little bit, but i’m concerned that getting him to lope off on a lead by kind of setting him up in that direction will cause me problems later on. What would you be prioritizing in his work at this point?
    Thanks,
    Jo

    • LarryTrocha says

      Whoa there Jo.
      From what you described, your colt is doing great.
      With only 30 rides, don’t expect so much.

      Remember (and this is important) the first two months of riding needs to be a little laid-back.
      Put some training on the colt but not so much to worry or stress him.

      We need to let him know that being ridden is a good thing… not something to dread.

      So, just chill out and take your time for another month or two… then start putting the training on him in earnest.

      Larry T

  3. ashley royle says

    You are amazing! I was just heading out to work with a horse on these exact things you have helped so much! I will be buying all of your dvds I can get my hands on!

  4. Dana says

    Thank you Larry. This clear instruction totally fixed my lead change problems. If I don’t set him up to the right he will drag that rear lead. Will this ever change??? He is 5!!

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