Lead Changes Stuck?

Shelly canter3Are you frustrated with:

Picking up leads?
Changing leads?
Flying lead changes?
Gait transitions?
Really uncomfortable canter/lope?

If so, you may have these issues too:

  • too stiff to bend (often worse on one side)
  • likes to lean in too far
  • likes to lead with the shoulder
  • likes to tip nose to outside
  • won’t flex around the rider’s leg
  • won’t track straight
  • just doesn’t like lead changes

This is going to sound strange, but I actually love to hear about lead change problems.  Why?  Because nine times out of ten, chiropractic can easily fix it. As a veterinarian certified in chiropractic and acupuncture, with over 18 years of experience, I can tell you that the majority of lead change problems are caused by skeletal misalignments.

Top 4 causes of lead change problems

1) Skeletal misalignments

Chiropractic subluxations cause nine out of ten problems with lead changes. A certified equine chiropractor can easily fix your horse’s subluxations and soon you will be without lead change difficulties! But how do you know if chiropractic subluxations are your horse’s problem?

Misaligned sacrum, lumbar, and ribs are the most common causes of lead change difficulty. You can check your horse’s ribs yourself by doing Body Checkups. Check out their videos here.

If the sacrum, lumbar, and/or rib Body Checkups tell you your horse is having alignment troubles in those areas—congrats!  That’s your issue and it’s easily fixed.

2) Hock problems

Proper hock movement is imperative at the canter or lope. If the hock cannot flex normally, canter problems happen. How do you know if your horse’s hock is working well and is pain free?

You can call your veterinarian for a hock flexion test and/or x-rays of the hocks. The results of the hock flexion test are:

  • “negative” flexion test is good
  • “positive” flexion test is bad

If you know there are hock problems, you can  decide if joint supplements or hock injections may help.

Hock x-rays will tell you if there is arthritis, OCD (osteochondritis dessicans), fractures, or perhaps joint mice (small pieces of bone floating in the joint). X-rays will not tell you if there are problems with tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, or muscles. Sometimes ultrasounds can help you with those. An MRI will tell you everything. :)

Another, more economical, approach would be to do the hock Body Checkup.  There is not a video of it yet.  However, it is available in Where Does My Horse Hurt?

3) Teeth issues

It’s surprising how important the horse’s teeth, and teeth floating, can be to horse performance. Why is that?

ONE:  The TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) is the joint with the most proprioceptive nerves in the entire body. Proprioception means knowing where your body is and what it’s doing.

So, if your horse’s teeth are  causing misalignment of the TMJ, your horse’s performance is impaired.

TWO:  Teeth with dental issues can keep the horse’s head “stuck” in one position.  The horse’s lower jaw needs to move forward to allow the head to tip to one side to pick up the correct lead.  Teeth problems prevent that from happening.

For more information on this topic, and also how to save money on teeth floating, please see teeth issues.

4) Saddle fit trouble

How can saddle fit have anything to do with lead change difficulties? Well, it might.

It’s not that common to have only saddle fit be the cause. But, saddle fit combined with chiropractic issues is often the culprit. You don’t want to be paying the chiropractor to adjust your horse when your saddle is going to throw him right back “out” again. Please check out the saddle fit information on this website, as well as Dr. Joyce Harmon’s saddle fitting books and DVDs.