How Do I Know What Lead My Horse Is On?
QUESTION: What is the proper lead for a horse
to be in on a right or left circle? How to you
change leads while in motion? Does a right lead
mean the inside foreleg hits the ground first?
What lead should a horse have when beginning the
walk, run, etc.
ANSWER: I found this good definition of leads
in Lucy Rees' THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RIDING, Roxby
Paintbox Company, 1991.
"The canter is a three-beat pace, with a
moment when all four feet are in the air. At other
times, the horse has one, two, or three feet on
the ground. ... The horse is said to be leading
on his right foot ... you see the right one stretch
forward the most. In fact, each stride begins
with the opposite back let, as in the gallop.
First, he [the horse] coils his back under him,
bringing his back feet forward. He puts the left
one down first. As he thrusts himself forward
with that foot, he rolls on to the diagonal right
back/left front, with his neck and body more stretched.
Then he leans forward on to his leading leg, while
his back is bunching to bring his back legs forward.
In the end he is flying again. ...the difference
between the canter and the gallop is that in the
canter he puts the diagonal pair down together,
whereas in the gallop he puts them down separately
[gallop is a four beat gait]."
That's the clinical description. If a horse is
moving in a clockwise circle, he is leading with
the right foreleg. If it's a counterclockwise
circle, he leads with the left foreleg. Changing
leads is difficult to do in a circle unless you
are doing a figure eight and changing leads in
the middle of the eight. Cues to get a horse to
change leads vary by trainers. For my horses,
it was a combination of shift in body weight,
and rein and leg pressure. And remember, the lead
is only an issue if you are cantering or galloping.