Why Does My OTTB Constantly Switch Leads?

Race horses do flying lead changes very well, if your horse is struggling then it is probably because you are asking the question wrong. In a race the jockey would prepare for the lead change by slightly tilting the horses head to the outside just before the turn.  As he takes his first step into the turn the rider would shift his body wight and tilt the horses head to the inside and centrifugal force makes them switch the lead.

All racetracks are banked to a certain degree with the inside being slightly lower then the outside. On the straight away we want our horse to be on the outside or right lead. When a horse is coming down the lane and getting tired if they are on the incorrect lead they tend to drift in towards the rail, keeping them on the right lead keeps them flat or in balance. Around the turns they should be on the left lead or the inside lead to keep the from drifting out around the turn. Horses in most races will change leads a minimum of 4 times during a race.

Some off track Thoroughbreds struggle to stay in the correct lead while doing arena work when you first start retraining them. This is because they are trying to do what they have been taught to do, right lead in the straight away and left lead in the turn. In the arena they tend to switch back and forth between right and left lead. To fix this I would start by cantering large circles to the left. After you are comfortable doing that, start to add a few strides down the wall and then back into your circle. Slowly build the amount of strides they can maintain down the wall on the left lead before going back into your circle and work your way up from their.

When you start retraining your OTTB you are going to want to do lots for trotting to the right. They spend most of their life going to the left and need to build up their strength to the right. When you start asking for a canter to the right, if they don’t pick up their lead, ask them in a corner instead of down the wall. Tilt their head to the outside just before the corner then as you hit the turn tilt head in and ask for the canter and they should pick up their right lead. It is all about timing and may be something you and your horse need to practice.