Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Leads and the arena

I went to the barn determined to not be in the round pen.  Given our whole bit episode, it was definitely not time for the trails. But I felt like I was leaning on the round pen and it was time to work in a bigger space and push the envelope a bit.

We spent a few minutes working through the bit issue.

BTW  I appreciate everyone asking about tooth issues.  Actually during the hiatus smokey and lily both got their teeth floated by the most amazing equine dentist - Lorrie Hardy.  

This woman was incredible. She works without power tools, found major issues with lily, floated smokey without sedation.  If you are in Texas I strongly urge you to consider her.  She also found a tumor on one horse, undoubtedly saving his life, did an adjustment, removed smokey's and other geldings beans, and even pulled his baby tooth that was being stubborn all with an herbal calming tonic!  Toss me a line if you want contact info.

I'll post more about Lorrie later...

After 15 minutes Smokey settled into the bit, and we worked on steering. It was a good session, but I wanted to get at least one canter in. I was remembering something I learned when I was watching trail rider's lesson with his longtime instructor (who he recently went back to). Keep in mind my knowledge about cueing for the correct lead is very rudimentary.  In fact, I always have to think of which leg to use.


At trailrider's lesson, the trainer was helping him figure out why the mare' s canter was so rough.  What trail rider suspected was right.  She was on the wrong lead.  I noted how he told trailrider to hold her head to the outside, cue her with the outside leg. I'd heard this before, but I never understood why you'd tilt the horse's nose to the outside. Given that I've never let my lack of knowledge hold me back from asking even the most basic questions, I asked.  In case I'm not alone in my ignorance, the trainer explained that the goal was to get the shoulder of the horse moving forward first.

"Turn your head," he said.  "what happens to your shoulder?"

I turned to look at the other side of the round pen. "It tilts a little forward."


"But you're picking up at the trot that she's ready for the lead.  How do you do that?"

He shrugged.  "I can just tell."

He said that trail rider needed a ground man to tell when the mare was in the correct lead.


Back in our arena I tried to remember this as Smokey and I headed out to canter.  Not surprising, he was resistant.

Smokey: "Canter? After all that lovely trotting?"

Me: "You know we have to get to it eventually"

Smokey: "Fine." (lurching forward)

Me: "What was that?"

Smokey:  "Hey, it's been a while."

Me: " Let's try again."

Smokey:  "I can't make the turn! ahhhhh!"

me: "I  think you're on the wrong lead." (I couldn't 'see' it or feel it, but I thought it was probably why he was having trouble turning.  It was the first time I'd figured this out, and we had had the trouble repeatedly). "Let's try to get on the right lead." *cue left leg, a little pressure to tilt the nose. No go*

Smokey: "I have no idea what you're talking about!  Ahhhh!"

me: "I can see that."    

Smokey:  "Good. No way I can turn there .  Let's stop."

me: "Let's try the other direction."

Smokey: "...okay..."

We canter around the arena, making our circle. On the left lead. We make the turn.

me: "Good job!"

Smokey: (puffing)  "Are we going to be doing new stuff all the time?"

me: "Technically none of this is new."

Smokey: "Technically it's grain time."

me : "One more time."

Smokey: (pause) "Under protest."

me:  (sigh) "Noted."

And we did one more on the left lead.  We'll work on the right - next time.


Paint Girl said...

I was always taught that same way to cue for the lead too. But I have heard and seen other people do it differently.
My problem with Brandy is she always crossfires and I have a difficult time feeling when she does that, although it is a much rougher ride when that happens too! I am trying to really feel the changes so I can correct it sooner.

Leah Fry said...

Where is the dentist located? I am close to Gainesville waaayyy north.

cheyenne jones said...

I do wish my horse would talk to me!!

How do you do that?........My lead changes are pretty chancy!.. But we are improving, well that is she changes the lead leg, and I say, " Oh that one?"

Great post!

Dan and Betty said...

Good work. I love your dialogues with Smoky.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Great back and forth with Smokey. I love the "technically it's grain time". Sounds like something one of mine would say :).

Dusty is just learning to canter and she gets it wrong a lot of the time. Sometimes she'll get the front right but the back end is cross cantering and it feels like I'm riding a jack-hammer. Good luck with your cantering lessons.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I enjoyed the conversation between you and Smokey.
Sounds like you two will 'get it' with practice.

Baby Doll was a cantering jackhammer. She had a huge ground-covering trot which could be floaty and beautiful when she was under control and collected by the right person....and that wasn't me. I avoided trotting and cantering her because my neck and back would ache terrible.
Apache has a lovely little trot and a comfy rocking horse canter that I could ride all day. So fun!


BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Most horses are left lead oriented, so often picking up the right is not as automatic. I'm sure with practice you'll get it.

I'm struggling with my black horse. He is right lead oriented and the only way I can get him to pick up his left lead is to start by traveling to the right, stop him, roll him over his left hock and then mooch him directly into a lope. If his left foot if planted, he will pick up his left lead every time. He just cannot seem to get it when he is already moving.

Rising Rainbow said...

It took me years to learn the feel for the correct leads. It's so hard when no one is there to tell you if you're right or wrong and you can't really tell yourself so you're just guessing if you're on the one you want. It's hard to get the feel from something you may have wrong. Guess that's why it took me years. The point is be patient. You'll bet there.

I love the dialogs between you and your horse. I'm thinking I should be "listening" for that dialog when I'm riding Storm. It might be very useful.

John and Regina Zdravich said...

When we were taking lessons I learned how to get a horse into the correct lead. The horse I trained on was really good at respondin to the cue. Now I have pretty much forgotten exactly how to do it, though I try sometimes when Divna's canter/lope feels rough. I think it is turn the head left and kick on the right side to get a right lead; opposite for left lead....(I think).

Achieve1dream said...

I love the dialog too. I really wish our horses could talk. :D

Trailrider said...

It took me a long time to get Woody to be more balanced and able to take both leads consistently. He was very one-sided when I first purchased him. I think conditioning the horse to take both leads correctly is one of the more important/advanced things we can do with our horses. It requires we be able to "feel" the correct lead, and it requires the horse to read our cues. Heck, we have to be able to give the right cues! It's a challenge worth undertaking.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I'm glad you knew it wasn't a tooth issue. One less worry. Thank you so much for your review of my book. Those five stars and your recommendation will really help with the sales. You are such a sweetie.