Horse Training for a Straight Lead Change

Lead changes have nothing to do with changing direction. Journal photo Lead changes have nothing to do with changing direction. Journal photo

November 7, 2017

Horse Training for a Straight Lead Change

AQHA Professional Horseman Bob Avila breaks down the sequence of training your horse for a proper lead change
By AQHA Professional Horseman Bob Avila in The American Quarter Horse Journal

For many years, I was no good at lead changes. I can’t tell you how much money I have lost by missing a lead by half a stride or dragging a lead by two strides.

One day, Jim Paul, a legendary horse trainer out in Arizona, told me something I’ll never forget: “Lead changes have nothing to do with changing direction.”

A proper lead change has nothing to do with direction. To be able to change leads properly in the front and hind legs simultaneously, a horse has to have his body and spine straight.

A horse's body and spine need to be straight to do a proper lead change, and Quarter Horse enthusiasts need to have a subscription to The American Quarter Horse Journal to get top-notch horse-training tips!

For me, when I do my lead changes in a reining pattern, I don’t do a figure eight. What I actually do is two D's. When circling, I round the corners but I go straight through the middle. I change leads in the center, take a few strides straight to keep my horse straight before moving into the opposite direction.
So it’s all about keeping everything going straight. AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning, another great horse trainer, showed me this simple method for learning how to properly change leads. It’s kind of like creating training wheels for the rider. Here are the steps to do this training technique:
 
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1. First, place a pole in the center of the arena with both ends pointing to the middle markers. What this pole will do is keep you honest because you have something to focus on that is in a straight line.

2. For this example, we will start on the right lead. In a lope, move into a right big circle. As you come to the middle, lope straight in the right lead and go to the left side of the pole. At the pole, change to the left lead and continue to lope straight for a few strides before moving your horse to the left circle.

Continue reading more about training for a straight lead change on AQHA Daily