Flying changes. Part 2.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, October 26, 2017 07:23 PM
In order to ask for a flying change a rider has to feel the landing and flying phases of the canter stride. The timing for asking is during a landing phase - the horse will change in the next flying phase. For example, you can count the landing phases 1-2-3-ASK so instead of 4th count I will switch my aids and will request a flying change. The actual aids are new outside leg slides back and new inside leg slides forward; new outside rein firms up momentarily to facilitate the change and the balance. The seat must stay supple to move with horse's back during change and allow the jump through. Some horses jump through quite big and others can be very smooth. There is no need to twist, tense or jump out of the saddle. However, no restriction or loss of balance should be present. Practice at walk, practice to count and to switch your legs smoothly and quickly. Walk is very close to canter due to similarity in foot fall.
A common mistake is to pull horse's head into new direction by new inside rein. This can throw a horse into his shoulders and invite him to change in front but not behind. Also, if you are planning to do sequential changes later the less head movement there the better.
Another mistake is a strong pull up on the reins. It looks almost like the rider tries to help the horse to do the change by pulling up on the reins. Riders often do it for canter transitions or for encouraging a horse to continue canter.
Now, in order to set the horse up for success a rider must decide on the exercise to use for changes (in the beginning of teaching them to a horse). It is a good idea to stick to that exercise for a few rides until the horse firmly grasps the concept of the change. Also, it is a good idea to ask only from one lead to another and not to ask back for a few rides. Horses always change better from one lead to another. In my experience, the horse learns to change faster when going from soft side to stiff side. However, that is not a hard rule. And, if you feel unsuccessful going one way, you may want to try another. When I say unsuccessful, I do not mean trying once. I mean several rides.
Riders often choose a diagonal as an exercise to teach flying changes. In my opinion it is a human approach thinking that change of direction makes horse want to change. That is how jumpers do it and then horse learns to change as soon as he is doing a diagonal. Rider is not controlling it. Also, often on a diagonal green horse looses it's balance and falls on the shoulders changing only in front but not behind. The exercise I have chosen for Chica is counter-canter going large and then asking for a change closer to the end of a long side. Other exercises are counter-canter circle, leg-yield toward leading leg then straight and change, half-pass to straight and change. At first, I would be asking at the same location, however, my exercise allows me to continue in counter-canter instead of doing a change making my horse wait for me instead of changing due to circumstances. Circle is also allowing such choice. However, horses may struggle balancing on a circle and find changing lead difficult to accomplish.
By now I had already five sessions with Chica with successful attempts at flying changes. First time, she changed several strides later. I cantered one circle moving in a slow controlled canter on the right lead, praised her, dismounted and ended my ride. Next time I also did only one change. She changed being one stride later and making it very quick change speeding her tempo. I reestablished the tempo while praising her verbally and cantered couple circles, she tried to stop thinking she is done like the first time but I walked her around a bit before finishing. On the third ride we did 2 changes, still quick in tempo but on the aids and 4th ride we did 3 changes and I changed location to opposite long side going by in counter-canter at the usual place. She listened and didn't try to change by herself. She is mostly that obedient, due to her temperament, very much A+ girl :) On the 5th ride she tried to run after the change. So I worked on canter-walk-canter transitions and then asked for one more change, she was still quick in tempo but didn't run after so I finished on that. Now I am going to wait for a few rides and work on my canter and transitions but not changes. I knew she will be very excited by that work. She actually was better then I thought and I want to take her mind away from them for now to settle her. Then we will work on them again.
My student has a warmblood mare with a very good natural canter. We started working on flying changes after successful show season in Second level. We picked the same exercise for her mare, her first changes are right to left and she needed a bit of a help with the whip on the new inside (just a little tap right after the request for the flying change) to jump through. After she got the idea she did them herself, nice, clean, on the aids, no need of the whip help :) Quality of canter - straightness, jump, balance - is of paramount importance!
Happy riding...
 
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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