Tuesday Shasta Lesson – and a question for readers

On Tuesday morning, my husband had a lesson. I asked the trainer to set up a course and talk to my husband about how to do hunter courses and then try to get him around a course. One of his bad habits is stopping if anything goes wrong. If Shasta stumbles slightly in the deep dirt at the top end of the arena, he’ll go down to a walk, walk around for a minute, go back to the beginning of the exercise and then restart. This happens for all sorts of things: break from canter, had an argument about speed, need to fix a stirrup, etc. He can’t do this at a show; he needs to just keep going and finish.

He has also never been to a show or done hunters so he didn’t know things like circling at the beginning so I had her explain those and have him practice them.

 Of course, our entire arena has like 10 poles in it and fewer standards so making a course means some of the jumps have to be a bit creative:

Cones and planters jump
Planter jump complete with broken ground line pole

We did get a bit side-tracked from the whole course jumping thing by the discovery that my husband cannot tell what lead he’s on when cantering. I always thought he just wasn’t looking, but apparently he cannot tell by looking. He can only tell if she feels off balance around a turn. But Shasta can do a lovely counter canter so that’s not a good method.

I can tell what lead I’m on without looking. I can feel it. I was trying to think of how to explain this and I went with I can feel which leg is landing first. I’m not even sure that’s right. I just know and have been able to since I was 12. So I’m sort of baffled at how to explain this. The trainer suggested looking down to see Shasta’s knee, which I have never heard of. My husband couldn’t handle that either – he said he couldn’t see her knee. I tried telling him to look at the shoulders. I know I can look down and tell what lead a horse is on if I have to. But that didn’t help either.
So readers, how do you tell what lead you’re on? And how would you instruct someone else to learn that skill?
I could tell the trainer wanted to address this further, but there wasn’t time and she wanted him to do a few more courses. He also needs to practice remembering a course. He went of course and jumped the wrong jump during the lesson. He asked what he was supposed to do next and we both just said “nothing, you’re eliminated.” So we’ll need to practice this some more before the show.

8 thoughts on “Tuesday Shasta Lesson – and a question for readers

  1. Amanda

    I can usually feel it, but Tristan doesn't have the smoothest canter in the world. There are days when I do have to glance down to make sure if I don't feel it in a stride or two.

  2. Stephanie

    Feeling it just takes time! My dressage trainer had this beautifully balanced Trakehner gelding who would very occasionally pick up the wrong lead; she had trouble telling if he was on the incorrect lead even if she glanced at his shoulders! (I had the same problem when I rode him!)

    Does your husband typically ride in a half-seat at the canter? Sometimes that makes it more difficult to learn the 'feel' of the lead. If he does, maybe he could try really sitting down deep in the saddle (maybe without stirrups or in a dressage saddle?). When he's sitting, his inside hip will feel like it's slightly ahead of his outside hip- not so much as to be totally crooked, but just a little bit.

    Good luck! It's a hard concept to grasp and an even harder one to teach!

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