I left you last month talking about the neck and throat latch. This month I figured that we would just continue on down the body and talk about the withers and chest to include the front legs.
First, let’s start with the withers and what their roll is in performance. I want to see a horse have some withers. Yes, all horses have withers, but I am referring to being able to see the withers. Take into consideration that much like the crest of the neck some horses, if they are on the obese side, will carry some fat in the wither area like the crest of the neck. This is not what I am referring to. What I am referring to is the horse that has its withers buried in between its shoulder blades. One reason that I do not like this is because I will have a hard time getting my saddle to not slip or roll on the horses back. This is not a deal killer but it is definitely something to take into consideration. But, I do feel that it is very important that the horse should definitely be taller at the wither than at the croup or tall point of the hip. At the very least be level or the same height . Why? Good question, if the withers are higher it is going to be easier for the horse to be lighter on his front end, plus making it easier to stop and work off of his rear end. The key thing to look for is that the horse is taller at its withers than at the butt or hip.
Moving on to the chest, shoulders and front legs. When looking at the chest I like to see a horse that is broad in the chest. That is just a personal preference. But, I do not want to see a horse that has both of his front legs coming out of the same hole. Meaning that I do not like a horse that stands with his front legs real close together. This will result in interference later when asked to perform difficult maneuvers. I also like for the chest, or chest muscles to be out in front of the legs. Mostly because I will be asking for this horse later in training to spin which requires them to step over or cross their front legs a lot. If the chest muscles are directly between the front legs, this becomes difficult.
Now, moving on to front legs. I would have to say that the single most important thing about legs is that they are straight. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is from a breeding stand point. Conformation is hereditary and if the horse is clubby on one foot or toes in, you have a good chance of passing this on to your offspring. The second part to this is that a big flaw in this area of conformation will eventually lead to a breakdown in performance and could eventually lead to injury. But keep in mind that this is not always a kill factor when looking at a horse. Example: You have two horses and one has a lot going for him and performs all of the desired movements for the event you are going for, but is a little crooked on one leg. Horse number two legs are straight as a string and built great, but it does not have the desire to do diddle. Money is better spent on the horse that wants to perform.
Next month we will discuss the back, hip and hocks.
Over the years I have found that some of my lessons help me more than the rider that I am giving the lesson. Because, during lessons I am asked questions about things that I sometimes have not thought about in some time. This causes me to go back and re-live situations and horses from the past. Whether they taught me something that I may want to use again or something that I may not want to repeat.
I was asked the other day during a lesson why I was in the wrong lead. I responded with, “One mans wrong lead is another man’s counter canter” . By this I mean that often times in order for a trainer or rider to take his horse to the next level, you sometimes have to think outside of the box.
Let’s take for example you have a problem with your horse leaning or dropping a shoulder when loping in a circle. Sometimes you will hear someone say that you need to use your inside leg pressure to push the horse’s shoulder up and lift up with the inside rein. This works most of the time but, soon becomes something that you are constantly riding around doing because it seems now that the horse continually does this and the problem is compounded.
Another way to think or work on this problem is rather than work on his shoulder, fix the way the horse lopes. Meaning that he will not lean if he is loping straight with his rear end underneath him. The deeper and stronger you have a horse driving from the rear end the more that he is forced to level his shoulders and lift both to lope collected and straight.
Yet another way to attack this problem is to counter arc and counter lope the horse. If you are having problems with a horse that drops his left shoulder when loping to the left, then try to lope him to the right in a left lead with his head to the left. This will force him to pick up his left shoulder without using as much leg. It also requires him to keep his shoulder elevated continuously, and does not allow him to revert back to dropping it. Something to remember when doing this is that if your horse has not been asked to use his body in this way before, you as a rider need to be a little patient in allowing your horse the chance to get the hang of it. I have also found that doing this will help you with your guide to the approach to a lead change.
The key thing to remember is that in order for your horse to be proficient in a particular maneuver he must be able to effectively do all maneuvers.
Not every run in reining is a perfect run. In order for our horses to run honestly in the show pen you have to make sure that they do not read your pattern. It is one of the biggest reasons why we do not run complete patterns very often at home.
Unlike most other events, in reining the place in the pen that causes the most worry for the reining horse is the center of the show pen. Because it is the place where the most things happen. It is where most spins are, all lead changes, most lead departures, and sometimes stops. Not to mention, that not only are they asked to perform most maneuvers here but, it is commonly rushed in the show pen as opposed to the work done at home.
I try to spend most of my time schooling on my horses at a show that sells paid warm-ups. This is where a show sets aside time for the main show pen to be used by people who have purchase an allotted amount of time in the show pen, usually 5 to 10 minutes. This allows for the trainer or rider to take their horse into a show environment and not let their horse get away with problems. It also allows you time to settle your horse and not feel rushed, which in turn if you are not rushed neither is your horse. It also allows for the trainer to help fix problems with horses without worrying about anything but what is best for this horse.
The concept of schooling or paying for a paid warm-up is much like scoring cattle in roping. Why is it that we do this. Well it is to settle the horse in the box and let them relax in the box. Why? Because the box is where we put the pressure and where everything starts from. The same concept is applied to the schooling run. This is something that we will continue to work on with our horses until they no longer compete. This same concept can be applied to every discipline. Consider barrel racing for a moment. If I were to take the horse I was riding and approach the gate of a pen that I am about to race in, and upon entering the pen, I gig the horse and chase him to the first barrel. I do so until he is out of the pen, and continue this for several shows. What is he going to do? There are a couple of possibilities, one being refuse to enter, two is try to rush the beginning. Another is lean in the direction of the out gate because that is where the pressure stops. If I am to expect this horse to willingly participate in the activity with confidence I have to spend just as much time taking the worry out of the pen.
Here is an example of what I would do with a horse that I have shown several times, and it is starting to rush himself in the show pen. I will enter the pen just as I would if I were being judged. I would stop in the middle and allow the horse to settle, relax, and take a breath. When I feel that he has sat for a while I will sit a little longer. I will then begin a lead departure and make him stay bridled up until he has relaxed at a lope. I will not change leads in the center of the pen. Instead I will make him wait and counter canter at least ¼ of a circle in the opposite direction. In my rundowns I will make him wait on me to say go. If he decides to rush into his speed, I will pull him into the ground, and lope off again continuing this until he relaxes and waits for me. Once he has relaxed and is ready to be stopped, I will send him down the pen and will not stop him until he has utilized the entire length of the pen. This will keep him from judging the distance at which I am stopping him. There are several other things that you can do to fix certain problems. These are just a couple of general things that I will want to have a horse thinking about. Basically I am trying to take the rush and worry out of the show pen and fix problems that are occurring in the show pen.
One last thought, the practice or schooling run is for the benefit and longevity of the horses show career. It is not a place for reprimand but a place to build confidence and undo what you have been doing. Take some of the run out, relieve some pressure, make them like to compete. If you were to show up to work everyday and were rushed and pushed with out relief or reward you will burn out too.
This phrase is repeated at our training facility almost daily. The reason is simple, if you look where it is that you are going, then your body will more than likely be in the correct position.
Lets begin with the rollback. A rollback is the maneuver performed in reining at the completion of a stop. When properly executed, the horse comes to a complete stop and rolls back onto its back hocks. With forward motion, it turns 180 degrees and leaves in the opposite direction on the correct lead. This maneuver is also used in working cowhorse events and cutting. Once you have completed the stop and attempt to ask the horse to rollback, you should put an arc in your body (if rolling back to your right) while sitting on your right hip, open your shoulders to the right moving forward in your seat as you come out of the rollback asking your house to leave at a lope. You can also just look to the right and not at your horse. The simple act of looking toward where you are going next shifts your body weight and opens your shoulders. It will, most often times, keep you from putting to much weight in one direction.
The same principle can be applied to loping circles and straight lines. Riders at times have a tendency to over drive or steer their horse. Which brings the horse to a point of confusion. When starting young horses I spend a considerable amount of time loping circles, which helps put a guide on my horses. Not to mention that a large portion of the reining pattern is spent loping circles. Eventually, I will move to teach them to lope a straight line, where he must be between my legs and reins. This cannot be obtained if I am not straight and looking forward. If I am trying to teach a horse to lope straight, but I am looking down at him or off in another direction, my hands are saying one thing and my body is doing another. Here is a simple exercise to help. When using spit reins be sure to hold them properly. Begin by putting your index finger between the reins, picking your hand up to guide your horse. Use your thumb as a gun sight and look down range through your thumb at the target that you want to reach. Doing this will put your body and hands in the correct position. If at first your horse does not understand, slightly drop the hand down towards the mane then bring the thumb back up to aim again. Through repetition and patience your horse will get the picture much faster. Your horse must be supple and move off the rein pressure before getting to this point.
Body position is important with spins too. In the picture to the left, I am looking slightly ahead of my horse in the direction of the spin. Notice that the horse has matched my body and has arced in the same manner as I am sitting. By just looking in the direction of the spin, I have put the proper amount of body weight into my hips. I have not over-arced my body, and at the same time have allowed my horse to open his body to the inside of the spin. This allows him to step deep into the direction of the spin.
Sometimes we as riders try to overcomplicate our directions, which in turn complicates our horses ability to understand just what the message is. When it can be made simple to understand, the directions become much more clear to both the rider and the horse. The next time you’re riding a bike or driving a car, try to drive on the line with your tire, then read a sign on the side of the road as you pass it. When you look back at the road I can bet that you won’t be on the line anymore. Why? Because you’re not looking where it is that you’re going.
I’ve started a series of articles on what I consider to be the foundation of training in a young horse. I cannot stress enough how important the fundamentals are, and how this foundation is a building block to teach the horse the more advanced maneuvers. In the first articles of the series, I addressed the spins. In this article, I will explain the foundation of the stop.
Before I begin to worry about teaching the stop at a lope, I will first require that the horse have a full understanding of reverse. Not that he will just move backward when I pull on the reins, but that he will get softer on the reins and increase speed when motivated by rocking my legs into his belly. The rocking of the legs does two things: One, it gives him a pace or cadence which also controls speed. Second, it teaches him to lift his belly, allowing room for his hind end to fold underneath his belly. As a result of him lifting his belly, he will lower his head. This is the form that I want for his body to take when I ask for the stop. I will also require that the horse have a firm understanding of following his nose, and how to run a straight line.
This is true of the spins too, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles. Why does the horse have to know how to run a straight line? Because if he does not run straight then he will not stop straight. The same goes for the reverse. I want to be able to back in a circle to the left or to the right. Why does he have to know how to back toward both directions? Because if I cannot back the horse to the left or to the right, I cannot correct for the straight. In the stops, it is important for the horse to be at least starting to understand how to break or to give at the poll and at the withers. This is not as crucial as the other requirements, but it is still important. I have found in my teaching that if I stress the importance of having this part of the foundation, people tend to put a lot of emphasis on pulling and jerking a horse around to try to get them to put their heads down and low. This will actually work at times, but gets the horse much more worried about the stop and less concerned with the approach.
The approach to the stop is very important in finishing for a big stop. I want to see the horse relaxed in the approach, covering the ground with confidence. To achieve this, I must train for the body–from the shoulders back. Keeping this in mind and the horse’s body correct, the head will go down to a point at which he will be comfortable. Once I have this control, I will add the verbal cue of WHOA–not when I stop, but when I back up. I want my horses to think that I am not wanting them to stop. Rather, I want them to think that I am going from forward to reverse. This is why the backup is so important. WHOA is actually telling the horse to put his body in the position of reverse, which consists of a rounded back and lifted shoulders, with the head in a relaxed position. Without the lifted back, he cannot roll his hind end underneath himself without elevating his entire front end.
Increase the intensity gradually from a walk to a trot and then to a lope. If things get a little rough, take a step backward and use the foundation to
fix it. But remember, what does not get rough is not being challenged, and what is not challenged will not get better.
Like I have mentioned in past articles there are fundamentals that we must have first before starting to teach the more difficult maneuvers. For the lead change I want for the horse to have a good understanding of leg pressure. Not limited to the side pass, but having control of the hips and shoulders independently. Along with leg pressure I want the horse to be moving off of rein pressure and guiding on a loose rein, or with minimal bit contact.
First, lets talk about the mechanics of the lead change. In order for the horse to pick up a desired lead, the body has to be in the correct position. By this I mean that if we desire to pick up the left lead, the hind quarters have to be shifted to the left and the left shoulder has to be up and open. Having the shoulder up and open allows the horse to freely reach and stride out with the lead leg. If we attempt this with his head facing too far to the left, and with the rider looking down at his left shoulder, we are impeding free movement of the left or lead shoulder. Let me explain in more simple terms. Get on all fours, (hands and knees) put your child or some else’s child on your back like you are going to give a pony ride. Have the child whisper in your left ear and tell me which of your arms is easier to pick up. Now have the child sit up straight and look slightly to the left. Now you know what your horse feels. That is a lead departure which is the same as a lead change. Now have the child pull on your ears and say Whoa! Just kidding.
When first teaching the lead change there is something that you have to keep in mind, and that is that a proper lead change starts in the hind quarters. In order for this to happen a young horse will sometimes increase speed in order to attempt a lead change. The last thing that you want to do is rush them into a lead change. The reason that they will sometimes increase in speed is to gain impulsion with their hind end, causing an increase in speed. If the lead change occurs and the speed is still there then quietly bring them down to the speed that you desire. If you continue to show them that slow comes after the lead change, they will begin to relax all the way through the lead change.
Now for the hard stuff, the dreaded approach. Do I tip the head and hold the outside leg then switch legs and kick my hips and do it all at the count of three? No, the most important thing to remember is to RELAX, don’t tense up your hands and impede forward movement. Second, thing to remember is that change in lead does not require a change in direction. In fact, if you constantly change lead and direction you will eventually get your horse to dive his shoulder into a lead change which will lead to dragging his hind lead. Instead, approach the lead change (from left to right) by continuing to guide the horse to the left with the neck rein all the way through the lead change. You should be asking the horse to change from the hip with the left leg. If you are going to practice in an arena, then I suggest that it be done going down the long side of the arena. This will allow you time to change and not rush you into changing directions. Remember, you can stop at the other end instead of turning, especially if you have a tendency to wait to the last minute to turn the other direction. If your arena is not real long you can also practice doing this going from corner to corner.
I am starting a series of clinics that will focus on the elements of the reining pattern, designed to aid the non-pro or rookie in their training and showing. The format will consist of a three “class” series, with a class being held and a week or two in between until the next class. The reason for the design of this series is to leave the rider with not only information, but implementation as well. In other words, a one day clinic will leave you with a tremendous amount of information. However, when you go home to work on it are you doing it correctly, or did you just not get it? The idea is to not only insure that you received the information and are doing it correctly, but that it is in small enough pieces that you can implement it. For more information feel free to call me at (210) 825-1114 or email me at email@example.com.
This is the last of a series on conformation, but do not mistake this as being all that you consider in conformation. If I were to cover everything, I would have to write a book. I will be the first to admit that I do not know every single thing there is to know about confirmation. However, I am confident in what I look for from a performance perspective.
Let’s begin with conformation of the back. We have all heard that we should be looking for a short backed horse. It is not necessarily important to me that the back is short, but it is important that the back and underline match. When I refer to the back I am talking about the distance between the withers and the rear flank. The rear flank is where there belly meets the leg, it is also where the hair swirls or changes direction. When looking at how long or short the back is you need to compare with the length of the underline. I do not want to see a horse that has a short back and a long underline. Why? Because this body condition makes it very difficult to obtain collection. I will have to work against his natural body conformation to obtain collection. Likewise I do not want a horse with a long back and a short underline. It is a bit easier to obtain collection, but the horse will not be as free moving in its stride or as pretty of a mover. Although, If I had to choose on condition over the other, this is the one I prefer.
Ideally, I look for a horse that is balanced in his back in relation to the rest of his body. I like some depth to its heart girth. This is the place where your cinch goes around the chest when your horse is saddled.
As for the hip and hock, I am looking for a sloping hip and a low hock. In common terms, I want the hip to be round and the ham muscle to tie into the leg low. I do not want to see a horse that has a bubble butt and look like his legs are just sticks coming out of the bottom. I also like to see the tail head sets down inside the muscle, not protruding out. This is mainly because it is distracting to the look of the horse and takes away from the appearance.
When it comes to the hock, I of course like a horse that is low hocked. To identify what is low hocked you have to look at the hock in relation to the rest of the body. An easier way to identify low hocked is to look at the angle of the leg. I like to see a horse that naturally stands with its legs underneath its self. Preferably his back feet are standing just underneath his rear flank. This creates a natural angle to the leg that allows for easier stopping and creates less stress on the hock joint when performing more difficult maneuvers. Which hopefully will cause less chance for injury and more longevity in the performance pen.
To wrap this all up in a nut shell. I am looking for a very balanced horse. You have to keep in mind that this is just one part of looking for a great horse. You also have to have a good mind and a want to perform and learn. These things are just as important and once again that is where the balance comes in. I will forgo a short back for great athletic ability and a strong desire to learn. Remember, there is no perfect person and likewise there is no perfect horse. Essentially, I as a trainer, am looking for the best employee. I want the horse that likes his job, has a desire to learn, the ability to perform, and has a good work ethic.
After talking last month about how to start your horse on cattle I thought that it would be an opportune time to explain the benefits of working your horse on cattle, regardless of whether or not you are aiming towards training your horse for a cattle event. Not all of the reining horses that I train have a lot of cow sense. But it is to their benefit to be worked on cattle for the sole purpose of giving them something new to do.
While training horses to perform the maneuvers required for reining, there is a lot of repetition and times of pushing to get better and excel. However, not all horses learn the same way, much like people. Some learn best with repetition and that is all that is needed. I kind of equate them to the kid that is taught how to shoot free throws in basketball, but practices on his own and finds his rhythm. But, many horses are different and need to find a reason for the maneuver.
Lets look at a couple of maneuvers and see how we can use cattle to give them a purpose for the maneuver. Basically another reason to perform besides, “because I said so”. Let’s use the stop for the first example. When you are working your horse on mirroring the cow and stopping him when the cow stops, you are giving him another reason to stop beside you just helping him with your hands. The other important thing to remember in doing this is, you are also taking some of the man made elements out and putting more of the natural stop back into the horse. Meaning that if he has any natural ability in his stop, he will use it more willingly. This is due to the fact that he is not trying to understand your cues so much and resist, rather he will start to gradually use his natural ability to help him stay with the cow.
Another area where this helps a lot is in the roll back. While mirroring the cow in the roll back or change of direction you will find that through repetition your horse will start to read this and start to let the cow pull him through the roll back. As this instinct builds in practice you can use this to help you teach your horse to roll back on his hocks and push off with his hind end. He will get quicker on his roll backs with less encouragement on the riders part. Where this helps the most is getting a snappier roll back with out having to manually instill a rush during the roll back. This also helps the horse understand that he needs to stay on his hocks in the roll back and not fall out to early. This also allows you to get softer on the reins and create a prettier and more willing look to your rollbacks.
While mirroring and tracking cattle you will also help on your control of speed, which gives them a reason to rate their speed. Using your seat to help adjust speed can be better achieved while tracking cattle. The biggest thing to remember while doing this is to stay out of the mouth of the horse if he is rating with the cow. The horse will not learn to rate his speed and work willingly if he is not taught to be held accountable. Just remember, while working a horse on cattle you need to spend more time out of his mouth than hanging on the bit. When they are doing well, show them by releasing pressure off the mouth. Put them in the position that you want and then let them go. If they fall out of position again, help them by putting them where they should be and then release.
I would recommend to the inexperienced rider or to someone who has not worked cattle before, to get some help from a pro. If you are wanting to move into doing some cattle events, it is important that you start your horse right, and not allow them to start off with bad habits when working cattle. Some of the bad habits can cause them to loose advantage of a cow, and they are often times harder to re-teach than to teach correctly the first time. The most important thing to remember is to start slow and correct and not just run around like a chicken with your head cut off. You should have a purpose to what you are doing.
When it comes to showing horses and competing in any event, there comes a time when you have to make a decision as to whether you want to show up and just compete, or do you want to do what it takes to win. In the rodeo world it is called donating. I kind of like that term. What it indicates to me is that you are there to show up and donate the money to be in the pen with the competitors, or the people who are doing what it takes to win. When you are getting started this is something that you have to do, but at some point in your show career you have to make a decision to dedicate yourself enough to become a competitor.
Doing what it takes to win can mean many different things. Sometimes this means that you need to make the next move in purchasing more horse power. Sometimes it means that you need to step up your practice. More often than not the first step is for you to step up your practice and get good coaching. Once you have put in your time, and exceeded the level of your horse, then that is the time to step up the horse power.
I see a lot of people try to step up the horse power and expect a better result in the show pen right away. Well, you have stepped up in horse, now it is time to step up your riding level. That is where a good coach comes in. A good example is if you have a fear of the lead change coupled with a foggy understanding of how to obtain a correct lead change. The fix is not purchasing a horse with a better lead change, rather it is to learn how to ride better first. Dedicate yourself to taking lessons and get a firm understanding of the lead change. You may actually fix the horse that you have, and in the process become a better rider.
I have people come out to our facility and say that they have a strong desire to become a great rider. They want it like nothing before, and would like for me to teach them to become the best that they can be. The first thing that I tell them is that I will put as much time into them as they put into themselves. Dedication is the key to success in anything. That is what horses can teach you, and that is a lesson worth learning because it will follow you into the rest of your life.
I will give you some great example of winners: The San Antonio Spurs are a great team, a team comprised of great athletes with skill and knowledge to compete and win at the top level. Why do they have a coach? Can’t they stay in shape and practice on their own. If that was the case there would be no coaches in any of the NBA teams. They need to have someone there to give insight into their game, detect glitches in their execution, to give motivation, and to keep them focused on the task at hand.
I just watched a US Open singles tennis match who like wise are great athletes with tons of talent. Each one of the competitors has a coach, not because they do not know the game but for the same reason that professional sports teams have them too.
You see a lot of people join a gym to get in better shape each year. They start out dedicating themselves to getting in good physical condition yet, 99 percent of them do not finish the year. Why do you think that most have you sign a contract for a year? Because odds are you wont use all of it and they will still get paid. Why do you think that most sign the contract? Because they really want to stick with it and reach their goal. The ones that succeed at a higher percentage are the ones that have a personal trainer; someone that holds you accountable for showing up, and can coach you to your goals.
It takes more than just good intentions. Success takes dedication, hard work, and inspiration from a knowledgeable coach/trainer. Winning or becoming a winner is measured by personal goals. Just because you are not a world champion does not mean that you are not a winner. A winner is one who reaches his or her goals and passes their personal best. I will consider myself a great teacher when my assistant Jeni Phipps beats me in the show pen.
Before I go into how to teach a horse to take the correct lead, let me answer the question of, “Why does it matter what lead my horse is on”. The answer is not because that is what the rule book says. It is because it is what is proper and beneficial to the horses movement, and it allows him to use his body in an efficient manner.
Lets look at roping horses first, why do you want your calf horse to stop and back up straight? That is easy, because if he backs straight, he can pull with all of his body and pull the calf back to you which saves you time getting to the calf. The key here is that he can pull with his whole body. So if we relate that to team roping and ask how is it most efficient for a header to turn a steer? The heading horse’s job is to turn the steer at a 90 degree angle and pull the steer so that the healer has a good shot sooner. The most efficient position for the heading horse to be in, is for his body to be pulling straight up the rope of the steer, and that can only be obtained if the heading horse is in the left lead. If the heading horse is in the right lead and turning left then he is pulling with his left shoulder and is not using his entire body. This causes soreness in the shoulders and eventually ducking off to avoid soreness. If he is pulling straight and on the left lead he is pulling not with his shoulders but with his hind end. Why do you think that the old timers rigged their teams of horses in front if the wagons and not off to the side? They can pull best when their body is in the correct position.
Ok, now how to teach them to pick up the lead that we want and not the lead of opportunity. Before I explain this, let me just say that this is not the only way, but one way. I use many methods, but this one works for most. You must keep in mind that we are teaching, and teaching is learned best with repetition and consistency. It did not take you one afternoon to learn your times tables in school. Instead, it took days. 5 times 5 was always 25, it did not change to 30 after two days. Also keep in mind the teachers voice did not get louder and scream at you for every wrong answer, which would cause you to get frustrated and quit. Good teachers will encourage participation with repetition and consistency.
I like to work on leads while the horse is still in the round pen. Plus for simplicity sake, this will keep you from trying to work on other things like guiding and being worried about making corners before running out of room. First, your horse needs to understand giving to the bit laterally or left and right, and needs to be moving off of leg pressure at the hip. Once you have these parts you can encourage your horse to trot going counter clockwise in the round pen, or to the left. We will be working on the horse taking the left lead, to work on the right lead just take all of these steps and reverse it. With your horse trotting to the left apply pressure with your right leg, not to take a lope yet, but just to get their hip moving towards the middle of the round pen. Then slightly ask for their nose to point toward the outside of the round pen or fence. Do not over bend them into the fence, you are only asking for the nose to point outside of the circle to open the left shoulder. This allows for them to reach with the left front end or lead leg. With the horse in this position, encourage them to trot faster and allow them to pick up the lope when they feel comfortable. Once they have picked up the left lead, allow for the nose to come back inside of the circle. Avoid pulling or bending the head to far to the outside of the circle because this will impede forward motion, which is needed to break into a lope. If the horse has loped off, but in the incorrect lead, just pull back on the reins to cause them to break back down into a trot and start the sequence over again. To get an idea as to how far to bend their head to the outside, I just want to be able to see their right eye if I am trying to get them to take a left lead.
Now, once you have gotten the horse to a point of consistently picking up the correct lead,(like three correct leads in a row) start to relax on the outside rein pressure, and ask with just the leg pressure keeping the head looking straight into the circle. If they go back to picking up the incorrect lead, go back to helping by turning the nose slightly outside of the circle. Remember, that a lead starts first with a side pass. When you are asking for a side pass to the left your horse reaches to the left with his left leg and crosses with his right. It only makes sense that when you increase forward motion in that maneuver that your horse will again reach with his left leg and depart in a left lead.