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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 23, 2005

    Default Teaching/Encouraging a Lead Change from Back to Front

    Coming from the hunter/jumper world, I've never really "schooled" lead changes. When working with a young horse, we just set them up properly, be it with a well placed pole or a nice round reverse, and 9 times out of 10, the lead change comes naturally.

    There doesn't seem to be much concern in the h/j world (or in the show ring, at least) about whether the change is front to back or back to front. The majority of the time, I see the former. With my young horse, however, I'm really looking forward to having a really solid flatwork base, and I'm going to dabble in lower level dressage - at least at home! I have a dressage coach lined up to come do some lessons this summer, but in the mean time, I'm wondering...

    How do you encourage the change to start in the hind end? It is my understanding (and I could be wrong) that a lead change is not something that's done with dressage horse until they're much further along than where a change would typically be attempted in the h/j world, so I imagine that must play into it. A horse being further along in training = more tools in the toolbox.

    I also know that changes in hunter land (flat, subtle, muted) are very different than those you see in the dressage ring, but at this point I'm more concerned about getting a real *correct* change with my mare. Oh - and I'm not planning on working on changes anytime soon, but I'm curious now so I figured I'd ask.

    Thanks in advance for the insight.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May. 25, 2006
    Nor Cal


    Im definitely not an expert (and I think there are about ten thousand opinions on this very subject)---but I think its about developing the 'quality' of canter to make it as easy as possible for the young horse to "jump through" from behind. I read recently that if changes are late--this most often is a rider issue--either lack of coordination or correct timing of the aides.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb. 20, 2011
    Dutchess county, NY


    My favorite exercises:

    1. On the counter canter (say Left lead), take the neck bend to the right about 6 inches Counter bend. Straighten. Make sure the quarters do not swing. When this goes easily straighten and ask for the change.

    2. Half pass a few strides (say you are on the left lead then you are moving left with left bend shoulders are leading). Continue to move left, but straighten the horse and let the shoulders be a whisper to the right. When the horse is soft in this position, ride straight forward (stop moving left) and change.

    You will likely have to ride these exercises several times before the horse is soft enough to change. You may have to ride the exercises for a day or two before the horse is ready.

    Also when teaching a chane to a horse that wants to be late behind, I concentrate on making a half halt, directed to the new outside shoulder, at or just before asking for the change. This half halt tends to stop the front end enough that they change behind first.

    For changes that are late behind, IMO, a pole on the ground is one of the worst things you can do. In a sense, the horse jumps the pole, so the front leaves the ground first and lands first so likely to change first. A pole has a tendency to make the changes late and croup high.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 13, 2006


    I commented on this thread regarding the very basic lead change to start if you are introducing them BEFORE solid collection I would advise doing them that way being that the horse perfect straight (head shake), is probably not going to happen without that the fitness.

    My other advice would be if you do not do it the basic way to start them after you have a bit of solid collection and walk to canter transitions that are really spot on
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 11, 2011


    There are a million opinions on this topic, but if your horse is properly collected, he should achieve a rein change after a few strides at trot, then become strong enough for a true lead change. It takes time and conditioning.
    Last edited by Eggplant_Dressing; Mar. 14, 2012 at 12:36 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 5, 2008
    The Wild West


    Yep. Dressage changes come along alot later in training because they require "jump" and collection. The horse needs to be forward in the collection and actively sitting a bit to be clean. That takes strength and and training to work through the back. They aren't shown until third level, which in many cases is more advanced than the average hunter. Third level requires bona-fide collection and an ability to carry weight on the hind end.

    Hunters benefit from training through at least second level, I think. Should they have to win at a dressage show? No. But they should put in a respectable test. Solid dressage makes them adjustable and able to use their bodies for their primary sport.

    How to train? It's best if your horse is proficient at counter canter and able to do lateral work such as shoulder-in and renvers/travers at trot and canter. In other words, the horse is listening to your seat and aids and is balanced enough to change leads on cue. The horse can only do these excercises if s/he's balanced, collected, and working through the back.

    The only way to gather these tools is to work with a good dressage trainer. Anyone can hang out their shingle - be sure you're working with someone good and who can help your hunter get dressage training rather than trying to turn your hunter into a dressage horse.

    Oh search the site for all sorts of good exercises to teach changes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr. 23, 2005


    Thanks for all the suggestions so far. I hope to steer my mare towards the jumper ring, so IMO, a good solid dressage foundation is even more pivotal. She's too green to start with many of these exercises, but I look forward to her progressing the "right" way.

    Kaluna, what words would you suggest I search? I tried to use the search function before posting, but nothing really popped up for what I was looking for (which surprised me).

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