By Anna Jane White-Mullin
- It is wise to teach your horse to land on a certain lead after each fence that is last in a line of fences and over any other fence that immediately precedes a turn. By landing on the correct lead, the rider avoids the flying change of lead altogether, which makes the round smoother, gives the rider more time to think about the upcoming fence, and avoids any penalties that might be incurred by a poor lead change.
It is best to teach the horse to land on a desired lead by working over a single fence placed in the middle of an imagined figure-eight pattern. The fence should be in an open area so that the horse can jump the fence and circle to either the left or right without running into anything.
First, you can work only one side of the pattern–for example, jump the fence on a circle to the right several times, giving the horse the aids to land on the right lead:
- right indirect rein
- left leg in behind-the-girth position
These are the same aids as those used for the right lead canter depart. There are two additional aids that you can also use to help the horse understand what lead you want:
The rider’s eyes looking slightly toward the direction of the desired lead both of the rider’s hands shifted slightly toward the direction of the desired lead, so that the outside hand acts as a mild neck rein and the inside hand acts as a mild leading rein.
Once the horse responds correctly to the aids by landing on the right lead a few times, give the animal a break as a reward and let what it has learned “sink in.” Then, try jumping the same fence and asking the horse to land on the left lead.
- left indirect rein
- right leg in behind-the-girth position
Also, remember to:
- look slightly toward the left
- shift both of your hands slightly toward the left
When the horse has got the hang of it, you can work a figure-eight pattern over the fence, first landing on the right lead, then landing on the left lead, etc. Be sure to apply your aids subtly, for you’ll be penalized if the judge sees you slinging your upper body around in the air or yanking on your horse’s mouth to get the lead. The aids should be subtle, with most of the work being done by your lower leg, rather than your upper body or hands.
Anna Jane White-Mullin has been a “Big R” judge in hunters, hunter seat equitation, and jumpers for more than 30 years. Her latest book, The Complete Guide to Hunter Seat Training, Showing, and Judging, was recently endorsed by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and United States Pony Clubs (USPC). Visit Anna at: