Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lead Changes

One of my favorite things about Tax is that he seems to like his job. He knows when we go into a show ring and all of a sudden there is a change in him. Lighter, more forward, ear perked…he seems to like the excitement he feels coming off me.

Tax loves to change leads. He really does. It almost feels like he likes to show off or he thinks we’re playing. I have to be careful not to shift my weight on the straight or he’ll go flipping leads back and forth like nobody’s business. To cue a lead change with Tax all you ever need to do is gather him up a bit, and shift your weight into the direction of the opposite lead. 9 times out of 10 that’s enough. If that doesn’t do it I’m careful to add just a little calf pressure with the leg of the lead you want him to take because if you get him with a spur you’re likely to get a pretty dramatic take off. He also likes to run.

December is a different story and I’m enjoying learning hers. I tried cutting across the arena and shifting my weight. I didn’t get a lead change but I learned something. She’s got what feels like a lovely cross-canter. Not exactly what I was hoping for.

The next time I came across I collected her a bit and confirmed my cues in the direction we were traveling. I bent her to the inside using mostly my inside leg at the girth. Halfway across I changed the bend slightly and used my other leg at the girth to push her over. We got the change but not smoothly. She bucked a little buck in the rear and picked up the correct rear lead but took another couple strides and some coaxing to change in front.

We tried again. This time I added my outside leg in the bend supporting her farther back away from the girth as I pushed her over with my inside leg. The extra support of my outside leg keeps her from dropping that side of her body and she picked up the new lead without as much drama.

You can still tell it’s not her favorite maneuver. Ask her for a leg yield though or a shoulders in and she’s your girl. All of the pieces are there and now I’m just learning how to fit them together in a way that makes sense to her and I.

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