> How can you tell whether you are on the correct lead at the canter
> without someone on the ground to tell you?
You have to get used to the difference in the way it feels between the
lead and the right lead canter. Many horses will canter with their
very slightly to the inside when on the correct lead (although ideally
should be travelling straight, especially if you are interested in
It's kind of hard to describe the feeling you're looking for, but you
to feel that your horse pushes off on the outside hind leg in the first
of the canter, then the diagonal pair of inside hind and outside four
the ground in the middle beat, then the inside fore touches down in the
third beat. Then the cycle begins again as you feel the outside hind
off and the horse's forehand lift again. You should get the feeling
the inside fore is reaching slightly more forward than the outside
To get used to this, you'll need to do some riding at the canter in a
non-show situation, think about what you feel happening under you, and
out whether you're on the left or right lead to a knowledgeable observer
can tell you whether you called it correctly or not. Practice over a
number of sessions (don't overwork your horse) until you can reliably
say which lead you are on by the feel of it.
You also don't mention whether you've ever encountered a situation where
your horse has done a dis-united canter (also known as a cross-canter).
This is where the horse is cantering on one lead on the front legs and
on the opposite lead on the hind legs. If your horse ever does this,
you'll need to recognize the feel (it definitely feels =wrong=) and be
able to ask for a lead change to get back to a true canter. But you
need to work on recognizing which canter lead you're on by feel first
before you start thinking about lead changes.
> Sometimes having the wrong lead can
> just feel wrong, especially in turns, but other times, it felt wrong and it
> was the correct lead, or it felt fine and it was the wrong lead. It
> occurred to me in the show I did Sunday that when I picked up a canter, I
> had no idea whether I had the correct lead, and my instructor couldn't tell
> me, as we were being judged. I have no problem deciphering leads at the
> trot, by checking the outside shoulder, so how do you tell at the canter?
As above, you need to learn the different feels. I have seen lots of
lean over and check visually at the canter to see if they are on the
lead, but doing so not only unbalances the horse, it tells the judge in
equitation class that you can't tell your leads by feel. It is also
to tell which trot diagonal you are on by feel, rather than by glancing
at the outside shoulder, and it would be good if you can learn to do
also. Again, it's a matter of thinking about what you're feeling under
calling out left or right, and having an observer tell you if you are
BTW, I found it took me much longer to tell trot diagonals by feel than
did to recognize canter leads by feel. Hope this helps.
Richard and Sun Valley