I decided to improve one of my young rider’s feel for canter leads so that he is quicker to balance his canter between jumps which will mean he is quicker on jump offs and rides more flowing courses.
While we warmed up, I got him to tell me (without looking) if he was on the correct canter lead or not. Then we played around with picking up counter canter without looking down to improve his awareness for each canter lead.
Then we applied this to some jumps. I put three fences along the centre line, facing the long side of the arena. After warming up over the centre fence I asked him to identify the leading leg. Which he managed to do successfully. So I asked him to approach in left canter and try to land in right canter. I didn’t tell him how to do it, I wanted to see if he could apply any previous knowledge to try to get that change.
After two tries, we were still landing on the left lead so I brought my rider in and explained what he needed to do. Turn to look in the direction you want to go, open the new inside rein and put the new inside leg on the girth, and new outside leg behind the girth as you jump, shifting your weight to the new inside.
Now my rider started to get the idea. His pony is very obliging, so they were soon changing legs over the cross pole.
Now we moved onto linking the fences on half circles, changing canter leads over each fence. We did several courses, jumping the three fences in serpentines, circles, or figures of eight.
The main focus was changing, and checking canter leads. Correcting them as soon as possible so that the approach to the next jump isn’t hindered. I kept the fences as cross poles to draw my rider to the centre, as he has the typical boy approach of cutting corners and taking jumps off centre and at an angle.
I think it will take some practice, but now I can keep testing my rider as to his canter leads until he is subconsciously aware of them. Then he’ll start to ride courses more fluently and look more stylish.