Changing canter leads over fences.

Many riders have problems when trying to land on the correct leg after a fence. Having the right canter lead is really important for balance and rhythm whilst jumping. Falling into trot to pick up the right lead can really put both horse and rider off.  

Like most elements of riding, if you practice, practice and practice again, you will improve, below is a great exercise to help you and your horse learn and control which leg they land on.

Katy June 3
What you need:
4 x wings
6 x poles
All weather arena or flat field

What you need to do: 
  1. Set out 3 fences, all originating outwards from the centre wing, so it resembles a fan. 
  2. The idea is to have all the fences on a diagonal so you can jump them and change the rein at the same time. Make sure you can jump all the fences in both directions. 
  3. Warm you horse up well and begin with the fences small. 
  4. When you have a nice canter rhythm, canter into the fences slowly, it is important you can ride into fences on a good rhythm as this will make it easier for your horse. 
  5. As you land from the fence aim to shift your weight to the side you want the leg to land. 
Example; if you are on the right rein and you jump a fence and change to the left rein, you would lean slightly to the left hand side of the horse.This shift of weight could be as slight as turning your head to look where you are going.

Note: Some horses will need a little more encouragement when first starting this exercise.
  • Leaning slightly to the right or left will encourage a horse to land on the leg with most weight, as it will tip his balance to that side. Putting more weight into your stirrups and down the side of his neck of which you’re aiming to land on, will exaggerate the message you’re sending. *Note: This doesn’t mean leaning right down the neck and losing your balance
  • Another way to offer the horse some more encouragement is to hold your hand out slightly to the side you want to land on, this will put pressure or turn the horses head slightly and tell him which way is next, meaning he will naturally land on that leg.
  • Once you have mastered asking your horse over small fences you can raise them up and practice over higher fences and then move onto trying it whilst jumping a course of fences
  • I find this exercise a great add on to a normal days schooling. You can school your horse around the fences and then pop over a fence and change the rein when you feel like it. 

Katie June 2

Why is this such a good exercise?

  • This exercise is very easy to set out and use regularly as part of your schooling as it doesn’t require a huge amount of equipment or a large amount of space but delivers great results. 
  • Putting fences on a diagonal encourages the horse and rider to ask for the correct lead automatically and makes learning the aids easier for when you need to do this on the straight. 
  • If the fences are kept low (60/70cm) and only used to school around a few times in a schooling session, it means you can use the exercise as many times in a week without worrying about over jumping or exhausting your horse. 
Why is it good to master lead changes whilst jumping?
  • Being able to choose what leg you can land on whilst jumping is really important to everyone, those that simply want to enjoy their jumping and thosel that want to jump at a higher and more competitive level. 
  • It allows both horse and rider to stay in a relaxed, balanced and controlled rhythm without having to worry about being on the wrong leg, which results in a better performance from your horse.
  • It is also vital when doing jump offs as it will make your horse quicker on turns and result in a faster time! Something we all aim to achieve.
Additional tips:
  1. Always warm your horse up suitably before and cool down after the exercise 
  2. Take breaks periodically during the exercise
  3. Always make sure to work evenly on both reins
  4. A training video for this article can be found click here
Remember to have fun and enjoy. 100'S of schooling exercises and tips that will improve your riding Read more