The Leading Leg
What is it? If you’re learning about agility, sooner or later you’re going to hear about the leading leg and “changing leads”. There is remarkably little information about leads and lead changes, so I thought I’d address the concept here. I’d like to extend grateful thanks to Rabbit, who is a Bayer Warmblood mare (true name Cay Lou) and to her rider, Kristy Sermon, who had a broken scaphoid (bone in hand) at the time the videos were taken. Rabbit is wearing white boots on her right fore and left hind legs as a visual aide.
“Lead”, refers to which set of legs, left or right, leads or advances forward to a greater extent when a quadruped animal is cantering OR galloping.
It does NOT mean which leg touches first! In the picture above, Rabbit (the horse) is on a right lead – note the left leg is about to touch down and the right is in the air.
I’d like to begin by looking at the 3 main individual paces. You should familiarise yourself with your own dog’s gait as any variation in rhythm is often the first indication that something is wrong.
Walk is a four-beat gait, with footfalls as shown above.
The trot is a two-beat diagonal gait, with footfalls as shown above.
Canter is a 3 beat gait. The green “3” in the diagrams above is the leading leg, in both cases.
When a horse, or dog, is on the correct lead, the inside front and hind legs reach farther forwards than the outside legs.
It takes a very balanced horse to “counter canter”, i.e. canter on the wrong lead around a corner.
When we ask our dogs to change direction, they should change leads. This is what, in the horse world, is known as a flying change.
Flying Change Left to Right:-
Flying Change Right To Left:-
It should be remembered that a change of lead comes from behind. Or in other words, the change begins with the back legs. It follows that if your dog is heavily on his forehand, it will be very hard for him to properly change, a certain degree of collection is needed.
In the example above, think about how many changes of leads are needed. Is your dog skilled at changing? Would he benefit from being handled in such a way as to maintain his lead throughout?
I hope this blog has gone some way towards explaining the often mystical “change of lead” and that you find it useful.
Thanks for reading! Please do comment below.