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 has one little problem.  He overreaches, that is, his back feet hit his front 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 and
The Incorrect Lead
There are many reasons why a horse will pick up the incorrect lead.  First, horses have preferred
sides, just as people are left- or right-handed.  preference for one side or the other.  Justin, for
example, prefers the right lead, and he'll pick it up much more easily than he will the left, although he
can do either if given proper direction.
Also consider the possibility that you bent the horse improperly or gave the aids to canter
incorrectly.  Justin has to know which way he's going.  Sometimes, he makes an assumption and
picks up that lead.  Say, for instance, that while cantering down the center of the ring Justin
assumes that you'll ask him to turn right when you reach the fence.  Then you give him ambiguous
or incorrect aids.  He picks up the right lead even though you meant for him to go left and to pick up
the left lead.
Stiffness, not being ambidextrous, can also cause a horse to pick up the wrong lead.  Some horses
will only canter on one lead because that side of their body is overdeveloped.  My students often
ask why this happens.  Suppose you brush your teeth with your right hand all the time.  If you were
to break that hand and had to brush with your left hand, wouldn't it feel foreign and uncomfortable?
Finally, an incorrect lead may result simply because a horse is still a horse.  Given the choice of
turning toward or away from the barn, he'll turn toward the barn.  Don't underestimate such outside

Recognizing the Incorrect Lead
You should recognize after the first stride or two if your horse is on the incorrect lead.  Watch for the
following clues:

He doesn't canter exactly when you say -- there's a stutter step.  He
probably changed his bend during that step and assumed the incorrect

He raises his head and becomes inverted during the transition from trot
to canter.

He trots faster or, in other words, was strung out during the transition.

He usually is very balanced on the right lead, but you're going left.
Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049