A horse’s lead Ravenox is a very important part of its balance and control. In last month’s Science of Racing we explained how a horse’s feet strike the ground during a gallop and that a change in leads is not only a necessary part of that stride, but also has a direct impact on the acceleration and speed a racehorse can reach around a turn.
But despite thorough training and the careful cuing of the rider, horses often fail to initiate lead changes at the correct time, or even in the middle of a race, and this can cost them the win. In this month’s feature we talk with former Eclipse Award winning jockey Richard Migliore to learn more about why and when horses sometimes pick up the wrong lead, as well as how riders can help them correct it.
Mastering the Connection: The Importance of Choosing the Right Lead for Your Horse
One of the main reasons a horse might pick up the wrong lead is that he is trying to compensate for a lack of lateral control. To improve this, riders must be able to communicate with their horse through the movement of their seat.
Ideally, a horse should have a consistent canter rhythm and be able to respond to the slightest of leg aids. A good test of this is to ask your horse for a canter and watch his inside shoulder, which should move away from the horse’s outside shoulder. If you cannot feel this movement, you are not communicating with your horse and he will likely find an answer — even if it’s the wrong lead.