Recognizing the Correct Lead
How, then, can you recognize the correct lead? The first way to tell -- I don't recommend this, but
everyone does it -- is to lean over the horse's inside shoulder and watch his feet hit the ground.
But be aware that you could run into the fence or, if Justin suddenly stops, fly off over his shoulder.
A better alternative is to look down at his shoulder points. Notice that with his front legs extended
at the canter, both shoulder points are forward, but one is farther ahead than the other. This
should happen whenever your seat has dropped fully down and is about to start on its back stroke.
There's another, even better way to confirm a correct lead. When you canter on the correct lead,
your outside hip will turn to the inside. If, however, your inside hip turns toward the outside, you're
on the incorrect lead. When you can distinguish these differences in how your hips move, you're
starting to learn to really feel the horse -- a definite indication of your progress. As you get even
more skilled at the walk, trot, and canter, you'll be able to recognize when a particular hind foot hits
The very best way to identify the correct lead is to observe
more advanced riders cantering their horses. Watch as they
pick up the correct lead. Before you know it, you'll be able to
pick out the correct lead readily.
The Correct Lead
You need to understand leads. In the canter one front foot -- the leading foot -- steps farther
forward than the other. If Justin is on the correct lead, then his inside front leg strides farther than
his outside leg as he canters.
Mind you, there are rear leads, and horses can be on one lead in the front and one in back. If this
happens you'll recognize it, because your body will feel like it's being thrown in four directions at
once. This is called cross-cantering, or a disunited canter.
The lead relates to the horse's balance. What determines which lead the horse takes is the bend
in his body at the exact second that he begins to canter. That you bent him beforehand doesn't
count. What matters is that he has the correct bend precisely when you pick up the canter.
Justin is regal and gorgeous. He knows it, too, striking a pose as if to say, "Just look at how great I
am. I'm above all the ordinary school horses in this field." He prefers Red Delicious apples and
will turn up his nose at a sour Granny Smith any day of the week. He even rolls in mud elegantly.
Justin heels, so he has to wear bell boots to protect his front feet.
Justin isn't a full-blooded Morgan. He's a mutt. That's just as well, because many Morgans can be
a bit more than a beginning rider can handle. Whatever other breed Justin has in him has made
him a good, well-rounded school horse.
Justin's also very smart. We're talking brilliant. He waits for you to give him the aids, and they'd
better be clear directions. He wants you to be the leader and will test you to see if you can meet
his standards. Think ahead with this horse. If you panic and grip, Justin won't stop, he'll move on