Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cantering Cole Train – The Right Lead

Cantering Cole Train – The Right Lead

If there is one way I can describe Cole Train is that he is an overachiever. Particularly in the arena, he tries so hard that he often overdoes it. When I taught him to leg yield, it quickly morphed into a side pass. Now we struggle to get a leg yield. His slow downs often turn into halts, and halting is stopping on a dime. His walk-trot transitions tend to launch the rider right out of the saddle. Of course, his arena trot has so much suspension, it takes in incredible amount of athleticism on the part of the rider to stay with him.

Teaching him to take a canter in the arena was a huge challenge. He thought it meant trotting faster, bigger and higher. Finally, he figured out it meant bucking as high as he could. When he realized that all I wanted was a canter, it was beautiful. His left lead is the most perfectly balanced left lead—ever. His right lead is the most perfectly balanced left lead—ever. Sigh…

I struggled and struggled with it this winter. He bent better to the right than the left, so that wasn’t the problem. Then I decided he must be bending too much to the right, but supporting him with the outside rein didn’t help. Another thing that didn’t help—is that he was so balanced, I often couldn’t tell he was on the wrong lead. Looking at his shoulders didn’t help. He way overdid growing a long, thick mane, too.

Even on the lounge line, he struggled with the right lead. He would give it to me—never going on the wrong lead, but very reluctantly. He preferred trotting faster or bucking.

I was so discouraged. Here I have one of the most amazing little horses in the country, that with a talented rider/trainer, could compete with the big horses in the dressage arena. I’m not exaggerating. You just have to see his movement. Yet, he is stuck with me and we are stuck in kindergarten working on the right lead transition.

Out loose, he takes both leads regularly and does nice lead changes.

Finally, I gave up. I would try to work on it on the trail. He’s not going to be a dressage horse, anyway. He is a trail horse.

Last year, we started cantering on the trail on a regular basis. In the beginning, I got both leads, but as the summer progressed, he only gave me the left one. Of course, he is an overachiever, so it was a very, very fast left lead. Only once we started working in the arena did he slow down his canter on the trail. I don’t think he realized he could go slow until we did it in the arena.

The other night, I was riding on my own and decided to work on the right lead. Some things are better off when you are alone. Ellen doesn’t like when Ranger goes too fast—she worries about maintaining his soundness. Kevin just doesn’t like playing catch up with us. Starry does, though. If I follow the other horses, I never seem to have enough room to work. As soon as Cole gets close to them, he gets worried they might attack him. I know, it is silly, but that’s just how he is.

Well, I was out on the trail, and I came to a good spot to canter. The trail gave a slight bend to the right. I asked for the right lead—got the left. I could see where this was going to go.

The next right hand corner was much sharper. This time, I thought I would try from a walk instead of a trot. I asked for a bend, tapped my outside leg and off we went—on the left lead, again.

He likes to travel near the edge of the trail where it is softer, but there was a culvert coming up, and it didn’t seem like we had enough clearance. I pushed him away with my left leg and when he didn’t respond, hauled his head over, too.

We moved away from the culvert and continued a short way down the trail. Suddenly, it then felt like he was a car that hit a bump—that was a feeling I recognized. This is something Cruiser used to do all the time. I looked down in time to see him change from the right lead to the left.

Wait a minute? How did he get on the right lead? It must have been when I was struggling to miss the culvert? After all, I put him on a strong bend.

We stayed on the left lead. He started going faster and faster. It was time to rein him in—we were running out of trail—the river was coming up. He reluctantly slowed down to a trot.

I crossed the river and continued down the trail. I had an idea.

On my last solo ride last fall, I decided to try cantering in a different spot. There was a very sharp corner going to the right, and years ago, I used it to practice right lead transitions with Cruiser and Mingo.

On that ride last fall, as we neared the corner at a walk, I placed his body in a firm bend, tapped my outside leg on his side, and we were off on the correct lead like a rocket—doing his happy stallion grunt that he does when he gallops wildly outside.

So, I wondered…if this was something that made him so excited last year that he did his stallion grunt, would he remember it? Already this spring, he has volunteered to canter at this corner a couple times and once he gave me a buck of joy.

As we neared the corner at a walk, I placed his body in a firm bend, tapped my outside leg on his side, and we were off on the correct lead like a rocket—doing his happy stallion grunt—never underestimate the power of a good gallop on a horse’s memory.

He kept going faster and faster—but once again—we were running out of trail. We were going straight for a section of trail that has a lot of gravel that I prefer to walk him over. I convinced him to trot and finally walk before the gravel.

Well, I guess we have hope. I may be able to solve the right lead out on the trail this summer. I will probably only work on it when I am alone, unless my riding partners are up for a fast run, but I bet the little guy will remember it—at least on that corner.


achieve1dream said...

Awesome problem solving! I love that Cole is such an overachiever. :D It's interesting that he gets the lead out of the walk better than the trot... are you timing your cue for when his left hind comes forward? I have trouble feeling the hind legs, but I've been told if you learn to feel them you can cue right as the outside leg comes forward and you'll get the correct lead every time. I'm not good enough to do it that way though lol. I've been told leg yielding helps too, if you can convince your overachiever to give up the sidepass lol. Try practicing his leg yield at the trot and then try to leg yield a couple of strides in trot right before you ask for canter. It might work! You can do that on the trail too I think. Anyway I'm not a professional, just suggesting things that have been suggested to me before. :D Keep up the awesome work!

Judi said...

The funny thing is that I used to know exactly the moment to give a cue, and I could get any horse to take the correct lead. Then, Cruiser bowed his tendon and had trouble with his right lead--he would do a flying change a few strides into it. I stopped asking him for it--and I completely lost the feel on the right lead. I think that is the main reason for my problem.

I have read about the leg yield, and I think that might help as it would set him up in a good bend. I didn't think of trying it on the trail, but I will.

On my last ride, he took the right lead when I just asked verbally--i just assumed he'd give me the left. Also, he has done a few more flying changes from left to right. Oddly, the last time I turned him out to run, he kept doing figure eights. It's as if he is trying to teach me what to do!

I'll keep you updated.

achieve1dream said...

LOL! Cole is so cute. I used to have a horse than only cantered on the right lead and I got so used to it I forgot how to ride the left lead lol. You'll get it back!