Late last year, Harley went into the winter and 2012 spring with his canter leads all sorted out. He came to me with an unreliable left lead, and a steady right lead. That came back to haunt us a bit over a month ago. I had tried all the tricks I knew - ask in a corner, ask on a circle, ask with steady rein contact, ask with outside leg back, bend his head in, bend his head out, loose rein and vocal kiss only (no leg pressure), spurs, no spurs, you name it. The canter on the longe has been perfect, under saddle's been a nightmare.
Yesterday, he started this up again. Heading left, on a circle, in one spot, he'd get it. Another spot on the circle, four misses in a row. I was entirely annoyed. I barked out, "Harley! What the h&ll has happened lately?! You knew this before!!" I asked for a trot. We both settled down. I made sure my reins were even, my legs were even, and I sat deep. I looked up and around the circle -
Left lead canter. No hesitation. A bit of it, and back to trot. In a different spot, I asked again. Reins, Legs, eyes, seat. Left lead. I even repeated it a third time. Thinking I had this figured out, I let my eyes wander just barely outside the left-circle, and asked again. Right lead.
Harley's had that left lead all along, he was following my eyes, and counter-cantering because it's what he thought I wanted. He thought he was going to turn right, and was leading off for it. All that time, Okay, at least 6 months, I've been working on it, trying to figure out why it felt like he was guessing every time I rode. It wasn't him, it was me. I have trained him to follow my eyes, and as a result, my upper body. He's gotten that bright.
Wow... I had it all that time.. Eyes Up!