My horse won’t canter on the left rein. Help!
“My horse goes beautifully on both reins in walk and trot but when it comes to canter he just won’t strike off correctly on the left rein. I’ve tried everything I can think of and it’s driving me crazy! Do you have any ideas? “
As your horse doesn’t appear to have any other problems other than the canter lead I’d assume that it’s a rider error rather than a physical problem. That’s good news because it’s easier to solve!
Be careful that you don’t get too focused on this canter lead – often the more of an issue it becomes the more tension creeps in and that always creates more problems. There’s a strong chance he favours the right rein in walk and trot too but it doesn’t show qiute as obviously.
Work on straightness in walk and trot to get your horse working evenly on both reins. And look at yourself too because if he’s one sided you can almost guarantee that you are too. You’ll find you naturally turn to one side, step over things with one leg first or lift things with one hand 99% of the time. There’s a post here all about that.
Here’s what I’d do on the flat – and there’s a more detailed post on it here
Work on a 20m circle in sitting trot. Forget about his head and neck and keep them straight in front of his body. The more you try to bend him to the stiffer side the more likely he’ll be to try to go the other way – imagine having to write with the ‘wrong’ hand.
In sitting trot focus on your shoulders and hips. They should stay turned to the inside of the circle. Whatever you do with your body he’ll do with his so he’ll naturally turn to the inside without you actually asking him to.
Practise canter transitions making sure your shoulders and hips stay turned to the inside – it’s so easy to let your outside hip swing back with your outside leg. If you do that your horse will do the same and strike off in the other direction – the wrong lead. This sounds simple but you’ll need to really concentrate! It will work though – it’s something I do with pupils time and time again. If he strikes off correctly don’t canter for too long to get your point across. Do one circle and trot again. It’s the transitions that are most important here. If he goes wrong, ignore it and trot again. Settle him (and you!) down and try again. Problems like this won’t disappear straight away so keep at it.
Who knows what starts problems like these? It could be you, it could be him – or it could be his previous rider. The trouble is the more you try to ‘work’ on the stiff side the more tense you’ll both become. And, as you know, the more uptight he gets the more likely he is to strike off incorrectly – or onto his favourite leg.
Best of luck and keep in touch!