Correct Lead-Change Anticipation
All-around trainer Leslie Lange provides exercises for a reader who’s having trouble with her gelding anticipating lead changes in horsemanship and Western riding.
QI’ve recently purchased a new all-around gelding that I show in the Western riding and horsemanship at Quarter Horse shows. I’ve taken him to a few horse shows now, and I’ve noticed whenever there’s a flying lead change in a horsemanship pattern, or when we go down the line in Western riding, he knows where to change and tries to anticipate it. What can I do to make him listen to my cues and keep him from changing leads without my asking?
ASARA MAYES, Ohio
Lead-change anticipation is something you might have to work on when you’re showing a seasoned all-around horse that’s been competing for some time. It’s easy for a horse to start anticipating a change, especially in Western riding, because there are only a few patterns and essentially you’re changing leads in a similar spot each time. Eventually he learns those patterns, knows where he’s supposed to change, and tries to do it on his own.
Here I’ll discuss a few different ways you can approach working on leadchange anticipation at home or warming up at your next show.
Before You Practice
Before you begin any lead- change exercises with your horse, try doing something as simple as leaving your cones out in the arena every time you ride. This works for both Western riding and horsemanship anticipation. Having cones out in the arena allows your horse to get comfortable being around them, no matter what you’re working on. Even on days when you’re not practicing Western riding or horsemanship, ride through and around them. This will help him stop associating lead changes with cones and allow him relax when he’s near them. →
change every lead every time you go down the line. There are a few different exercises you can do to change how you warm up or practice at home.
Exercise 1: Skipping changes
evate his shoulders and try to change without you, take him off the line and circle the cone. Continue to circle that cone until you feel his attention is back on you, and not on the change. After he relaxes, continue back down the line.
This exercise can also be done at a counter canter. If you’re loping on your left lead and your horse wants to go to the left, go ahead and counter canter a circle to the right until he softens. Another benefit to counter cantering is you’re going to have a little more contact with your horse, which will help him accept what you’re working on and focus on what you’re asking, rather than changing leads. The last exercise you can do to help your horse from anticipating is having him wait to change leads until you’re past the center of your two markers. I even recommend changing leads once you’re at the next marker. Do this down your entire line. You can also practice this with a horse that’s anticipating a change in the horsemanship. When practicing your horsemanship pattern and there’s a lead change, wait to change leads a few strides more than what your pattern calls for so he doesn’t learn where he’s supposed to change. I wouldn’t advocate changing leads early for horsemanship or Western riding, because that’s a habit that your horse will pick up quickly, and it’ll only make him anticipate changing leads more.
used to step off just as I’d settle into the saddle at mounting. Then I started a routine where I always checked my position plus planned what I wanted to do before letting her take even one step. Now she assumes I’ll be doing a “systems check” and so stands still and waits until I cluck and squeeze.
Tiffany Benson, Texas
feeder because his head was always in the way. I began saying, “Head back!” in a commanding way, then waiting as long as it took for him to pull his head in before I’d dump in his feed. I was amazed at how quickly he changed his behavior, once I was both insistent and consistent.
Barbara Martinez, California