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How do I get my mare to lope right on both leads?

By DANA HOKANA / Horsetrader columnist - March 17th, 2011 - Cover Story, Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: I have a 5-year-old Paint mare that lopes wonderfully on the left lead, but when I ask her to lope to the right she can’t hold it together as well — she doesn’t feel as smooth or as cadenced to the right. What can I do to fix her lope?
Anna Olsen, Ojai, CA

DEAR ANNA: That is a very good question! Almost all horses lope or canter on one lead better than the other, and there are many reasons for this.

Some people believe that since we lead our horses from the left side, they are a little more supple since their head is always being bent to the left, or that they are often circling to the left. I study my young horses in the pasture, and I see that some horses would rather lope on one lead more than the other. I like to compare it to people who are either left- or right-handed. If you are right-handed, try to write as pretty with your left hand!

I find that one of the main reasons that your horse lopes better one way than the other is that they are probably leaning in or leaning out on your circle.

Try this exercise: Lope off on a right circle and pay close attention to the size of the circle. Now, leave your horse alone and see if she wants to (A) cut in so that she will make the circle smaller, or (B) drift out and make the circle bigger. Almost all horses will lean to the outside on one lead and cut in or drop in a shoulder on the other lead. Once you diagnose this, work on not allowing your horse to cut in or drift out.

When your horse has self carriage, is balanced and is between your reins and legs, she will lope at her best. This applies if you are showing reining, pleasure, running barrels or just trail riding! Also, remember that at the lope a horse carries himself on an arc. So, a correct arc for a right lead is the left hind foot in between the two front feet, and you can see the outside corner of the right eye. It is vice versa for the left lead.

Through time, as horses learn to lean, she may be throwing her hip to the outside, which can make her drop her shoulder to the inside. All of this will determine her movement. Her energy flow cannot travel straight through her body. Once you become aware and diagnose your horse, you can work on fixing the problem.

Also, she may have an underlying soreness that you need the assistance of your veterinarian to diagnose.

Good luck to you with your mare, Anna! I hope this helps you.

P.S. — I would strongly recommend Take Control Vol. 3 “How To Get The Lean Out Of Your Performance Horse.” This DVD of mine will show you more in-depth how to do this exercise that I described above.

Do you have a question for Dana? Simply go to www.horsetrader.com and click on the “Dear Dana” section, then submit it! If your question is selected, you will be entered into a monthly drawing for a FREE “Winning Strides” DVD from Dana’s training video series.

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