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  1. #1
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    Default Spin Off - "correct" lead change - hunters v. dressage

    This is a topic that came up on the "ground poles" thread that I thought was interesting enough to get its own thread.

    I'm a hunter rider, all the way (other than doing the eq as a junior). My horse is also a hunter. He has been capable of doing pretty darn "correct" back-to-front (or front and back at the exact same time) lead changes since he was a four year old. No, he does not do them from a super collected crawl of a canter, but that is because I really don't need him to do that. I suppose he probably could do them that way if I were inclined to ask. But we really don't have a need for that with what we do.

    I have, from time to time, had him in barns with a lot of dressage people. The dressage folks generally tend to be of the opinion that he isn't changing "correctly" because he isn't super collected and leaping into the changes. But that kind of change, honestly, isn't very useful to me for this horse's job (particularly since he is the type that is already inclined to stall out in the corner if given the chance, and he needs as much step as he can muster to get down the lines sometimes).

    I always find it interesting that these same people who opine that my now-7-year-old's lead changes are not "correct" in the dressage sense have horses that are in their late teens and still do not have a lead change of any kind at all (nevermind a change that is "correct" - they just plain don't have any kind of lead change other than a simple change).

    It seems sometimes like the dressage crowd makes a bigger deal about nitpicking the "correctness" of lead changes than might be necessary, and as a result, they end up with horses that never obtain a lead change at all. I mean, many of these horses without lead changes are nearing retirement!

    Anyway. Not bashing dressage at all. I think it is fabulously useful as cross training for hunters, and I have recently started riding my horse in dressage clinics for just this reason (and have been loving it!). The lead change thing is just something that has always struck me as interesting.

    Discuss.


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  2. #2
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    I have hunters also. Mine are able to do lead changes in both manners you mentioned above. On a long rein with no bit contact, and also when I have them in a collected shorter frame.

    Why not, doesnt hurt and by riding in a more collected way for training, you develop a much nicer horse. A nicer horse that when ridden on a long rein, still carries himself well ,and very athletically.

    Who cares about "correct" dressage changes. But I will say that i would much rather see that in the hunter ring then the wacky, twisty, throw you whole body to one side change that is sooooo common and ugly in the hunter ring.

    ETA: I once rode a horse for a friend of mine that came back from a well known hunter trainer. I was shocked that the horse could not bend or accept contact from the bit, and really didn't know how to go around in a collected way with hind end edgaged.
    Last edited by Noms; Sep. 26, 2012 at 11:20 AM. Reason: clarity


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  3. #3
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    Not really sure if you want to discuss dressage crowd nitpicking, or clean balanced lead changes?



  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by alterhorse View Post
    Not really sure if you want to discuss dressage crowd nitpicking, or clean balanced lead changes?
    Either, really. Just looking to discuss how lead changes are viewed differently in different disciplines. Pros and cons, that kind of thing. Again, not criticizing dressage...I think the h/j crowd can learn a lot from the dressage crowd and I also think that the dressage crowd can learn a lot from the h/j crowd.

    I personally feel like us hunter folks can benefit from some of the precision of dressage, while some of the dressage folks could benefit from accepting "good" and moving on from there to perfection instead of insisting that if it can't be perfect, it should not be done at all...if that makes sense.

    I think my horse, whose lead changes may not be perfect in the dressage sense right now, has a better chance of eventually doing "dressage perfect" lead changes than some of the dressage horses that I know...simply because we have not blown them up to be a big huge deal and we are willing to work on "good" rather than demanding "perfect" and ultimately achieving no lead change at all.



  5. #5
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    It's a different sport, with a different "goal" in mind. Dressage wants very balanced changes "with expression." Hunters want slick, clean and almost imperceptible -- the ideal is almost the opposite (other than "back to front.") Wanna throw reining changes into the mix for variety's sake?



  6. #6
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    I somewhat agree with what you are saying that dressage people make a big deal about lead changes. But a lot of the hunter lead changes will get a 4 AT BEST at a dressage show. But, I have often wondered if it would be beneficial to introduce dressage horses to lead changes when they are young and not worry about them being out of the collected canter. Then when you start schooing them out of collection, the horse has a clue what you want.

    Hunters seem to be okay with a front to back lead change and that is a HUGE no-no in dressage. And I know from experience that it can be super hard to fix. It may seem like an easy thing, but it is not. Once a horse gets used to changing like that, you have to be super, super correct to get what is considered a clean change in dressage.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineAlready View Post
    I personally feel like us hunter folks can benefit from some of the precision of dressage, while some of the dressage folks could benefit from accepting "good" and moving on from there to perfection instead of insisting that if it can't be perfect, it should not be done at all...if that makes sense.
    I think this partly goes to the fact that in dressage, at least from what I've experienced, you have the mindset of riding a horse with the goal of grand prix. So when you first teach a horse to do changes, they need to do them "correctly" and uphill so from there you can build into tempi's. You don't want a flat change simply because its more difficult to build on that and still be able to do another one a few strides later. So, that would be an incorrect way of going about training the change. Just like I can get my horse's head to go down and be in a "headset" which looks great for training level, but is going to catch up to me at first or second. That's incorrect training. Works OK for the level you are at, but doesn't provide a foundation to build on.

    But I'm just and eventer so I could be totally wrong on all this


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  8. #8
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    To add another perception to the mix, I've always found it interesting that many of the eventers I know don't put lead changes on their horses until prelim or higher.


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  9. #9
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    What I've noticed from videos on this board is that "clean" changes according to many hunter folks actually have the front changing before the back. Because the stride starts with back legs, that means it's late according to dressage riders. But hunters are happy with them, particularly if they are seamless.

    I would FAR rather see seamless and correct changes from a dressage horse as you described in the OP, then work on getting the horse to collect which naturally adds expression, than the riotous disaster many dressage riders train in while trying to get expression from the start. Correct is the first part of it, and refinement/expression can come later.

    Having done breed shows growing up and hunters for a while, I also don't get the big deal about lead changes - even though I'm now a dressage rider. My horse raced then evented, so when I got him a shift of weight would make him change leads. It's funny, now that he's learned to counter canter we're finding he doesn't quite get when/if to do changes. But two rides working on it had him changing about 75% of the time, so it's not exactly a huge major thing...

    For sure I'm finding the larger strided the horse the harder it can be just because they have to coordinate more at once - my QH was super easy to teach changes (I taught him changes on my trial ride having never taught them before, it was so easy!) but he had a western length stride. He got up to two tempis very easily because of it.

    I have yet to understand the difficulty in single changes, though, and agree that some people make a bigger deal of it than it is! Forward is a necessary part to start off with, and expression is easy to add.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

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  10. #10
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    If the dressage nitpickers you know have "horses in their late teens" who can't do a lead change, then they probably aren't qualified to nitpick at dressage or hunter riding. Just a guess. There are always sideline experts in any sport. Often the are the loudest "expert" around with the least qualification (in my experience).
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by libgrrl View Post
    Wanna throw reining changes into the mix for variety's sake?
    Sure, why not? I'm sure there is something to learn from them too.



  12. #12
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    Dressage and hunter flying changes shouldn't be that different.

    But, lots of hunter do it without the proper contact and thus the horse isn't through like a dressage horse should be. Flying changes are often long, flat and without expression.

    Quote Originally Posted by FineAlready View Post
    ...from a super collected crawl of a canter
    It doesn't have to be. I train my horse do it on a longer lower frame but with contact. I don't want the 'auto-change' and 'no-rein'. I want the power coming from the hind leg and always clean changes without swinging haunches.
    The goal is not only to achieve one single flying change but build up the strenght, energy and suppleness for the tempis.

    I suppose he probably could do them that way if I were inclined to ask.
    If you can get a correct canter, be on the bit - in front of your legs - and if he waits for your seat/leg cue, of course he could be able to.

    But he might not be strong enough in his back for you to sit the change properly.

    The dressage folks generally tend to be of the opinion that he isn't changing "correctly" because he isn't super collected and leaping into the changes.
    It is probably because he isn't thru in his back. He might not stay round and you are probably giving away the contact in order to stay forward enough.

    I always find it interesting that these same people who opine that my now-7-year-old's lead changes are not "correct" in the dressage sense have horses that are in their late teens and still do not have a lead change of any kind at all (nevermind a change that is "correct" - they just plain don't have any kind of lead change other than a simple change).
    Some people might not want to put 'wrong' lead changes only to have to fix it later. I'm sure you know how difficult it is sometimes to re-train a horse!

    It seems sometimes like the dressage crowd makes a bigger deal about nitpicking the "correctness" of lead changes than might be necessary, and as a result, they end up with horses that never obtain a lead change at all. I mean, many of these horses without lead changes are nearing retirement!
    There you are right about some being at little exagerating about waiting so long before moving up the level and introducing the flying changes. Some are scared of doing shoulder-in, haunche-in, and don't even talk about half-pass.

    But we see that also in the hunter ring. How many stays at 2'6'' - 2'9'' division for the rest of their lives....

    A lot of dressage riders/horses are not that talented and have no wish of going higher than 2d level. Flying changes are seen at 3r level.

    I believe most riders/horses are able to do third, not all being competitive, but I also believe most riders/horses should be able to do the 3' divisions.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eventer13 View Post
    I think this partly goes to the fact that in dressage, at least from what I've experienced, you have the mindset of riding a horse with the goal of grand prix. So when you first teach a horse to do changes, they need to do them "correctly" and uphill so from there you can build into tempi's. You don't want a flat change simply because its more difficult to build on that and still be able to do another one a few strides later. So, that would be an incorrect way of going about training the change. Just like I can get my horse's head to go down and be in a "headset" which looks great for training level, but is going to catch up to me at first or second. That's incorrect training. Works OK for the level you are at, but doesn't provide a foundation to build on.

    But I'm just and eventer so I could be totally wrong on all this
    You know, I think you might be right about this. Now that you mention it, I have heard the term "Grand Prix" thrown around a good bit regarding horses that are not ever likely to make it to that level and riders that have no desire to make it to that level. So perhaps it is all in the name of foundation and moving up the levels in theory, even if the reality is unlikely to happen. Interesting perspective.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by alibi_18 View Post
    Dressage and hunter flying changes shouldn't be that different.

    But, lots of hunter do it without the proper contact and thus the horse isn't through like a dressage horse should be. Flying changes are often long, flat and without expression.
    Proper changes are proper changes, period.

    Changing in front first and then back in the hunters is rampant because they all go around on the forehand and are not engaged behind.

    Teach in a collected frame then they understand in the class how to do it.

    All of this is basic foundation for a horse, hunters, dressage, eventers, reiners ETC ETC. Does not matter what dicipline.


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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by netg View Post

    I would FAR rather see seamless and correct changes from a dressage horse as you described in the OP, then work on getting the horse to collect which naturally adds expression, than the riotous disaster many dressage riders train in while trying to get expression from the start. Correct is the first part of it, and refinement/expression can come later.
    Yeah, as a hunter person, this is my view too. I assume there is some solid reason behind why the dressage crowd does it the way that they do, but I look at a lot of dressage horses and wonder if I could easily put a hunter lead change on them and if a dressage person could then build off of that to get the kind of changes they ultimately want. Not that I would ever propose something like this to anyone, as it would obviously be offensive, but there are some horses that I look at and think "well, gosh, I bet if you let him gallop forward a bit the lead change would be right there."

    I have witnessed the "riotous disaster" kind of situation that you reference, and it appears to be upsetting and counterproductive for a lot of horses. It really seems like they: (a) have no idea what their riders want and (b) might not be physically capable of providing it, especially when super stressed.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noms View Post
    Changing in front first and then back in the hunters is rampant because they all go around on the forehand and are not engaged behind.
    I have to disagree with this a little bit. Hunters do not all go around on the forehand. Especially the hunters in the derbies and bigger classes. If they did, they would be flat to the fences and disaster would ensue. Good hunters DO have engaged hind ends.


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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tha Ridge View Post
    To add another perception to the mix, I've always found it interesting that many of the eventers I know don't put lead changes on their horses until prelim or higher.
    I always figured that was because there were more important things to worry about. My horse could get around fine at prelim without changes, even if we had to trot a change or counter canter a turn. The time in stadium is not that hard to get, usually, so trotting is an option (if we had to jump-off, obviously changes would be much more important to install). And its not judged, so going around in counter-canter (assuming your horse can do a nice, BALANCED counter canter) is also OK.

    Cross-country, there is little need to be on a particular lead within a combination, especially at the lower levels. Most horses will change more readily at the gallop (even if its not always clean), and there is so much room between fences and relatively few sharp turns that makes being on the correct lead less crucial. And especially BN and N, you can usually trot and make time easily, so if you do for some reason need to trot a change, you're fine.

    Why would I spend time putting on changes when I have many, many other things to work on for our next event? They go to the bottom of the list, under working on our shoulder-in, trot lengthenings, 10 meter canter circles, gallop sets, grid work, work over angled fences/corners/skinnies, cross-country schools, etc.


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineAlready View Post
    It seems sometimes like the dressage crowd makes a bigger deal about nitpicking the "correctness" of lead changes than might be necessary, and as a result, they end up with horses that never obtain a lead change at all. I mean, many of these horses without lead changes are nearing retirement!

    Anyway. Not bashing dressage at all. I think it is fabulously useful as cross training for hunters, and I have recently started riding my horse in dressage clinics for just this reason (and have been loving it!). The lead change thing is just something that has always struck me as interesting.

    Discuss.

    The first paragraph is like saying hunter folks should be satisfied with 6 out of 8 perfect fences on course.

    I mean this in the kindest way, but based on your post it does not seem that you understand the fundamental principles of dressage.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by alibi_18 View Post

    But, lots of hunter do it without the proper contact and thus the horse isn't through like a dressage horse should be. Flying changes are often long, flat and without expression.

    ...

    If you can get a correct canter, be on the bit - in front of your legs - and if he waits for your seat/leg cue, of course he could be able to.
    ...

    But he might not be strong enough in his back for you to sit the change properly.

    ...

    It is probably because he isn't thru in his back. He might not stay round and you are probably giving away the contact in order to stay forward enough.
    I think your observations are dead on, especially for someone who hasn't seen my horse!

    The reason I say I think he could do changes the way dressage people would like is that he already can do them on a straight line if I ask (I can change him to the counter lead, take a few strides, change back, and so on...certainly not tempis by any stretch of the imagination...but I can change his lead at will). He definitely prefers that I stay off of his back for changes...and this is really not a problem because, well, I'm off of his back anyway if I'm cantering around a course.

    I guess what I'm thinking is that I don't think it would be very hard for him to transition to doing what the dressage crowd would want to see in their dressage horses...so that makes me wonder why dressage horses are started on changes the way they are.

    It sounds like it might be for fear of accidentally putting a front-to-back change on the horse?

    I have to say, having watched quite a few dressage riders try to put lead changes on dressage horses...they seem to get just as many (more?) front to back changes during the intial schooling process as the hunters I see. The main difference I have noticed is that the hunters that are learning changes and start out changing front to back will be maybe a half step late behind, whereas their dressage counterparts will take many plunging discombubulated cross cantering circles before leaping (bucking, sometimes) onto the correct lead behind.

    It would be interesting to see the same horses several years later to how their lead changes end up.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineAlready View Post
    Yeah, as a hunter person, this is my view too. I assume there is some solid reason behind why the dressage crowd does it the way that they do, but I look at a lot of dressage horses and wonder if I could easily put a hunter lead change on them and if a dressage person could then build off of that to get the kind of changes they ultimately want. Not that I would ever propose something like this to anyone, as it would obviously be offensive, but there are some horses that I look at and think "well, gosh, I bet if you let him gallop forward a bit the lead change would be right there."

    I have witnessed the "riotous disaster" kind of situation that you reference, and it appears to be upsetting and counterproductive for a lot of horses. It really seems like they: (a) have no idea what their riders want and (b) might not be physically capable of providing it, especially when super stressed.
    I suspect the good dressage trainers really do more what you would than you think, and that you're not seeing much good dressage training! Somewhere on the site Lauren Sprieser did a blog about how she teaches the changes early and forward, then returns to them later because it's simply easier to get them trained before learning counter canter. I only remember that because it was what was already the case for my horse! Certainly, though, what many hunters consider a "correct" change is one which would be considered "late behind" in dressage - and expression isn't part of "correct" in dressage but timing is.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

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