Flying changes. Part 3.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, November 16, 2017 08:00 PM
Winter came to Alberta very suddenly. We had temperatures in teens until the very end of October and all of the sudden snow on Halloween and down to -20C in a few days. I think everybody including animals were in shock!
This promptly ended my riding in the outdoor ring and forced me to go to the fields on all my horses. My mare Chica is not very confident in a big field when by herself. However, over the years she learned to trust me and listen even when it is hard for her :) Though I already managed about 15 flying changes from left to right in my ring over several rides and two from right to left in the last ride - going to a field meant basically starting all over again.
I ride Chica in the field in double bridle. This means I would ask for changes in double bridle. In my home ring I did them in a snaffle. I gave her couple rides in the field to get used to it. She was strong and inattentive at times but overall very good and I could feel she was trying very hard to be good :) Exploring the options on where and how to ask for flying changes I decided to work her in the corner of the field with two natural "walls" of bush. This gives a visual break from big openness and allows me to set up my flying change exercise without inviting excitement and possibility of a run out. I did canter work on a figure eight with simple changes and counter canter on a very big oval. After my observations of her balance and behavior I decided to use oval and ask for a change from left to right, her stronger one, more practiced.
Our third ride in the field had lovely weather, sunny and calm. Chica seemed quite comfortable and settled which was good prerequisites for working on flying changes. As soon as I started work on counter canter and simple changes Chica got excited and wanted to be stiff and strong. I continued working on simple changes until she settled and started cantering slow, supple and round, coming back to walk smoothly and picking up right lead softly and gracefully. First request for a flying change she took to heart and leaped into new lead, slipped on the snow and lost her balance behind, scrambling with her hind legs. Thank goodness we didn't fall but that was a very good lesson to her. I gave her a break and I had to do another simple change to make her wait for me. Then asked again at the same location for a flying change. She did one stride later but clean and much more carefully, no loss of balance and nice canter after. That was it, I praised her and took her home which takes about 15 min of walk, or 10 min of combination trot/walk which I usually do in winter to stay warm :)
This is very encouraging as I was a bit worried how the transition to the field go with flying changes. I felt I didn't do enough work in my ring and I didn't know if I get a wild reaction from her. My little girl is growing up and that allows me more options in training. The advice I would like to give to other riders is to be willing to go back a step and work on a simpler exercises if something is not working, the environment has changed, etc. Have patience, restore the quality of canter before proceeding with more requests of a challenging work. I have now all winter to establish and develop Chica's flying changes and I feel confident that we will be able to accomplish that!
P.S. We had couple more rides in the field since I started writing this blog and I did flying changes from right to left. She was a bit strong at first but then settled and gave me nice ones with steady canter after. Now I know I can work on flying changes both ways...
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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