How to Get Lead Changes - the Easy Way

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Your horse can change leads easily - each and every time - when it travels in a relaxed frame, giving to the bit.
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Trouble Switching Leads

QUESTION:  "I have a big 1200 lb. mare that moves rather slowly because of her mass. I have been working on lead changes, but she is slow to respond. Sometimes she changes; sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she changes only in front.

When she does not change, I stop, and move her hip in the direction of the missed change. I ask for a few circles in a counter canter before asking for the change. She responds quietly to yielding the hip at the walk, standstill, and trot. I sidepass against the fence every day during warm up to loosen her up. Do you have any tips on how to get her to change more fluidly and consistently? Do I just need to continue doing what I'm doing? Thanks"

ANSWER:  I'd  quit working on "lead changes," per se and I'd start working on two things: 1) speed control and 2) softness, or suppling your horse's body.  Those two issues are blocking your improvement.  Nail those two things to perfection and then go back to working on your leads specifically.  Regardless of its size, any healthy horse can "move out" and easily do lead changes - I daresay, one scrawny tiger could get your horse dancing quite easily.  

Work on speed control, teaching the horse that when you kiss, you mean move - and you mean "move now."  Here's something you can start with: Trot a large circle and use both reins to slow the horse. Trot slowly for 10-20 feet then cue the horse to speed up. Trot another 10-20 feet quickly and slow down again. Quick, slow, quick, slow. 10 feet one moment, 5 or 10 or 15 the next. Mix and match speeds and distances. Over and over and over.  Always ask for a speed transition before you think the horse is about to change on its own.  (That last sentence is imperative.)  Also, work specifically to teach your horse that when you kiss, you mean move - do this by conscientiously backing up all cues ("kisses") with motivation (squeezing or kicking with your legs until you get a "noticeable change of leg speed).

Work on softness.  This topic, softness, aka "suppling a horse," could all by itself fill reams of paper, but you can begin making changes tonight by practicing simple serpentines to soften up and relax your horse: Pick up a single rein as he turns, hold the rein till his neck relaxes or drops, walk forward, repeat the other way—again and again with an eye toward calming your horse. Alternatively, you can practice your disengagements (basically, "turns over the front legs"). Repeatedly turning the back end is a quick route to softening the front end.


Entire books can be written on such topics... and guess what?  I did!  I did write books on these topics!

If you have my book, "What I'd Teach Your Horse," you'll find several chapters dedicated to both "speed control" and suppling.  (In fact, they're big books - there's tons of how-to horse training in each.)  There's even a chapter that deals specifically with "cross firing," (when your horse is loping on a different lead in the front than the back) and it walks you through just how to fix it.  Both "speed control" and "suppling" are also covered in great detail in my book "Crow Hopper's Big Guide to Buck Stopping."


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Copyright 2014, Keith Hosman

John Lyons (L) and Keith Hosman, Parachute, Colorado
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About Your Author

Keith Hosman, Utopia, TX USA 
John Lyons Certified Trainer Keith Hosman lives near San Antonio, Texas and divides his time between writing how-to training materials and conducting training clinics in most of these United States as well as in Germany and Czech Republic. 
Click to see his books or get more info
What I'd Teach Your Horse Training & Re-Training the Basics - by Keith Hosman, Certifed John Lyons Trainer
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What I'd Teach Your Horse Training & Re-Training the Basics - by Keith Hosman, Certifed John Lyons Trainer

Basic Training

What I'd Teach Your Horse 
Training & Re-Training the Basics 


Question: "I just bought a horse. What do I do now?"
Answer: "Buy my book, 'What I'd Teach Your Horse.'" 




If you broke your horse to saddle and rode it for the first time today, this book is where you'd start tomorrow. Likewise, if you have an older horse that needs re-training, you'd start here. 

"What I'd Teach Your Horse" is a roadmap to  building the foundation every horse needs, regardless of age, breed or background, regardless the type of riding for which it will eventually be used.  Afterwards, when your horse knows this book back to front, go train for barrels, roping, eventing, jumping or dressage. But today, basics are basics. 

By Keith Hosman, a John Lyons Certified Trainer and Gadabout Town  

Available for all major e-reading devices and in paperback. Get the paperback here on eBay - shipped directly to your home by me - the book's author!  

Click here to get more information and purchase "What I'd Teach Your Horse"
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