I have been schooling more third level work with my mare and have been building up muscle and suppleness quite nicely. Our change from left to right lead is tricky for us though. She tends to prop on her front legs and change the lead but by flinging her back legs up instead of coming under herself.
She knows what the end result is supposed to be, she's just having trouble getting there. The change from right to left is just beautiful, so I can't help but realize that I am causing the issue. I have no access to a trainer at the moment. All tack fits, she is not back or joint sore I am certain. She is worked on regularly and all other work is going extremely well. She is a little weaker on the back left as opposed to back right, which I can imagine is part of the problem.
Long story short: What should I be reminding myself to get the change cleanly and when asked? I have a feeling I am not balancing myself correctly? I have good timing and can tell when to ask but I feel like I am blocking her somehow with my upper body. Any ideas? She is extremely good at counter canter and I'm telling you the change the other way is so lovely. Coming into the change from a half pass does help, and usually when we get one good one this direction I call it quits and reward her profusely.
I'm not super experienced in teaching changes so take this with a grain of salt... But I did successfully teach my horse (under the watchful eye of my wonderful coach) who had extreme difficulty with this movement and am now working on perfecting tempis so I can say I have at least worked through the issue! I had a similar problem with my horse. A big part of the problem for him was strength and balance. We basically just did them over and over and over while continuing to work on the quality of his left canter. As far as position, I know that I tend to drop my right shoulder down and forward which puts my body in exactly the wrong position to ask for the left to right change and throws the horse off balance. Do you have someone who can video you? That might help you diagnose any issues on your part that might be creating a problem.
Far from an expert, but I am an amateur that works alone a lot.
--It really really really helps to have a ground person. It is one of the few things I really want to work closely with a trainer to train a horse to do. But at a minimum having a ground person who can give instant feed back of clean, late behind, half a trot step, etc. There are things happening with the legs that are really hard to feel!
--A lot of horses are one sided, it's really common to have one change stronger than the other. I wouldn't worry too much about it unless it goes on for a long time, just work on fixing it.
--the quality of the canter is huge. I did a lot of work improving the quality of the canter, rather than drilling changes, and it definitely helped (I was not on the most athletic/talented horse).
--Another AA rider who works alone a lot gave me this exercise to help my horse's changes (he was chronically late behind, this is the thing that fixed it after months and months of messing it up!). It helps them sit back and get off the forehand, which it sounds like might be your horse's problem too. Do a figure eight with each loop about 10m and positioned so that you are facing and pretty close to a wall when you change directions. Start with doing simple changes through the walk (good ones! no trot steps!) as you change loops. After the horse gets the idea of sit-walk-canter off on the other lead, ask for the change. The wall really helps both the rider and the horse shift back and prepare better for the change. Or at least, it helped me. Not a professional here or anything
Make sure you're not blocking her with the new inside hand, in this case your right hand. Ask with the left leg and a half-halt on the left rein (lateral aids) and give a little with the right hand to let the shoulder come through.
Jane Savoie has a good short video on an exercise to teach the change from the counter canter. You can look it up on her web site.
Dittos to schooling canter/walk/changes! I find my changes both ways are better if I school a few canter/walks first.
Here is a strengthening exercise that might help her hind end:
Walk a 10 or 12 m circle in haunches-in. Canter -- still in haunches-in. Transition to walk, haunches in. Repeat. Do both sides. Allow the horse to go large in between to rest and recover a bit before repeating. She'll tell you quickly which side is weaker and which side needs more of this exercise.
If it's you interfering somehow, try riding the changes without stirrups. Sometimes I get "floppy" in my upper body and that makes it difficult (if not impossible!) to make a clear aid. Stirrupless and thinking of sitting back seems to help.
first off - never do the left right change without a good mirror or a good grounds person - it is too difficult to feel if the change is clean or late.
start with the left counter canter(CC), move the neck to the right about 6 inches bring the horse straight, play with this so it is easy like dancing. (Rember, you are only suppling the neck the horse should otherwise be straight). Now, take the horse a little off the rail. Bring the haunches towards the left (towards the rail) then bring the haunches back straight. When you bring the haunches back straight the horse might anticipate the change. Any anticipation will bring tensions and tension brings late changes so do not let the horse change. If you feel this tension, just bring the haunches back towards the rail, supple, relax and straighten again.
It might take a few rides to get all this so that it is easy and fun - like dancing.
Now you need a pirouette-like canter. Play with the forward and back. This needs to go easily and without tension. You need to be able to get the horse quickly into pirouette canter and ride out rather than letting the horse fall out. Forward and back, tempo control - this needs to be part of life - and it should be fun easy no tension.
When you have all these peices, the suppleness in the CC the tempo control and the ability to ride these without tension - then you are ready to fix the change. In the CC with your supple horse bring the haunches towards the rail, straighten the horse, bring the horse to pirouette canter then ride FORWARD 2 strides and ask for the change.
Thanks everyone! Great suggestions. She could definitely be stronger. My right hand blocking is a definite possibility as well, I will work on all of these things. I rode without stirrups yesterday to work on my body but looks like I'll be doing that again sooner than I thought!
As far as being "late", she has never changed the front without the back or vice-versa. I am very grateful for that! I do have mirrors, though, which is how I know that she is propping herself.
I don't work on changes every day, maybe twice a week, so that should alleviate any anticipation or frustration on her part. Keep the exercises coming please!!