Louie did great tonight! After our normal walk/trot warm up, I asked him first for a left lead canter and he took it beautifully (granted a little startled by my kiss cue, but he picked it up from a walk really nicely and NO bucking!). We went about a lap, praised like crazy, then went on doing some more walk/trot work.
Just to test the waters a little bit, I later set him up, half-halt, shift, bend, and cued him for a right lead and much to my suprise, he picked it up beautifully, no bucking or kicking, and stayed in it about one lap (I have to kindof keep clucking/kissing every few strides to keep him going) before I asked him to stop. Lots of praise again, and the permagrin plastered on my face as I was gasping for breath after sprinting a lap around the arena with him. I was totally shocked that he took both leads so nicely!
We continued on for a little bit more walking and trotting, working on our jog trot (which by the way is coming along really nicely!) and I thought I'd try the right lead one more time at the end of the lesson to see if he could do it again. Granted I was really pushing my luck, but I set him up and asked him for the right lead one last time. And right off the bat, he took it again! As I was running, breathing, and yelling "good boy!" he broke down to a trot (I didn't get my reminder cluck in quick enough lol), so I quick re-cued him and he got his right lead again, this time with one little kick. I let that slide as it was far less violent than what he has done in the past and he continued on his right lead really nicely. We went about half a lap and I stopped him, praised him like crazy, and we called it a night. Yay!!
Now I know next time may be a totally different story, he might not continue progressing as he has, but I really truly believe that this method is working and he is starting to get it. I think by being able to shift his haunches and tip his nose toward the rail, it's really opening up his shoulder and he's starting to get what I want from him and taking his right lead MUCH more easily and willingly. For such a smart horse, I'm honestly suprised it's taken him so long to figure this right lead thing out, but I think he *might* be finally catching on. Keeping my fingers crossed that he keeps progressing!