Left Lead Blues

I’ve talked about this before, I’m sure, but one of the interesting things I keep running into with these guys is that it often seems to be more difficult to get the left lead than the right.  Everybody always talks about how racehorses only have a left lead, because they run in counterclockwise circles all the time, but this is a bit of a misperception, I think.  Either that, or I’m getting all the flukes!  What I do see in going to the track is that typically a horse breaks from the gate on the right lead, then switches to the left for the turns.  I think this is playing into my problems a little bit, but with Archie, he just seems to have extreme difficulty with picking up his left lead on the upward transition.  This probably is not helped by my inherent crookedness, and the fact that I’ve had the same problem with multiple horses suggests a common denominator (though most aren’t as difficult – the only one that hard was Kat… Rosy, Klondike, and Afton I noticed the issue but didn’t really have trouble with it).

Either way, about 90% of my body is in serious pain today after riding Archie last night.  Next time I’m wearing my heart rate moniter, because it was serious exercise!  I took a little video to start, of Laura on him, and after a few not-so-great passes through some trot poles, and general sluggish behavior on Archie’s part, I decided to get on to see if he felt any different from Monday, or if there was something else going on, or what.  I will say I think I got a better response from him and had him going a little better, but he also didn’t feel quite as good as the last few times I rode him.  I’m wondering if this might be a tack issue so will experiment with that a bit.

After trotting around  a tiny bit and going (crookedly) through the trot poles, I went straight to working on obtaining a real canter.  I will admit to feeling all discombobulated – I used to ride in an Equilibrium and always loved it, but since I got my new saddle I’ve gotten quite spoiled, so I felt all wobbly on the Crosby 😉  I could feel my heels lifting and lower leg coming too far back when I used it, but such is life!  To the right we had several successful canter transitions from the walk and from the trot.  He is also getting a fair bit easier to keep going all the way around the ring. Several times I did have to growl or bring out the stick to keep him going as my legs just were NOT doing it anymore, but all in all much improved.  And while I KNOW he is faking it, several times he put his head down, which looks really pretty.

To the left…. well, it wasn’t pretty.  After two failed attempts, I did get the left lead (trotting in, while turning across the ring).  I was able to keep it going one full circuit before the energy underneath me just…. fizzled.  Then began about 1238746238745 failed attempts at repeating our success. I tried really setting him up at the walk… fail.  I tried the same turn/approach from the trot that worked the first time… fail.  I tried shifting all my weight to the outside… fail.  I tried more inside leg, less inside leg, outside rein, no outside rein, no dice.  A trainer friend at the barn is fond of saying you have to move your hips to the outside and give with the outside rein, but at one point, while feeling myself almost falling off to the outside and getting nowhere with that approach, I decided to take a breather.  We did eventually get a few more steps of left lead canter, but at that point my lungs were burning and I swear I could taste blood in the back of my throat (if I was a horse, I think I’d be on lasix). 

The problem with focusing  a lot on leads is that Archie is quick to pick up on rewards and not-rewards.  He is also, I think, just not really understanding the difference between leads, and why I kept correcting him when picking up the wrong one.  He started to get to a point where he stopped wanting to go into the canter at all, because I kept saying “no!” when picked up the wrong lead.  So I made sure to at least let him canter forward a few times and really praise him – yes, I do want the canter!  We’ll deal even though it’s not THE canter I want….

Then to switch things up I pointed him at a small crossrail set in the middle of the ring.  It was set the opposite way of easy, so that you would have to circle across the ring to go over it.  And then, quite by accident, I discovered a weird thing.  Though Archie did NOT jump the jump, instead preferring to demolish it while barely picking up his feet (it’s OK, we had plenty of those with Rosey and she turned out fine!), I try to make it a point to “canter away” so they start to get the idea of what is expected.  And on the circle, after tripping over some poles, he picked up the left lead three times in a row. 

Hmmm.  I’m thinking I will be putting this knowledge to good use!

In any case pretty much 90% of my body is screaming in agony today. I kind of like it, because it lets me know I was working, at the same time… ow.  Archie has all the makings of a very easy horse to ride – he’s smart, and he is developing more of a go button, and he’s level headed and things don’t fluster or distract him.  I know that a lot of the difficulty right now is physical fitness, which is getting better every day like everything else is.  To that end we will be getting him out on more trail/fitness rides (at least make the work fun!) and he’s ready to start getting some lessons with Stef the Dressage Guru.  🙂 

Hopefully will have some new video in a day or two 🙂

In Other News:

A great story I read this morning about a horse named Jazzy’s Spirit

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3 responses to “Left Lead Blues

  1. My friend has been having major issues getting her OTTB on the left lead as well – so it’s not just you 🙂

  2. My guy has a hard time with the right lead, but I know what you’re going through..and I bleed, too. I’ll come back from the track sometimes and literally taste the blood and gasp for breath…no wonder the horses stop when they do it! Maybe we should develop human Lasix, kelly!

  3. No, I’m pretty sure now *I* got the fluke with my last one (Bold McKinnon, an ’85 model) who only picked up the left lead and took years before he finally decided getting the right shouldn’t take three or four tries. Lucky, on the other hand, seems only dimly aware that the left lead exists.

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