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Training Flying Changes

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    Training Flying Changes

    Curious to get others take on something. I own/ride a 14 y/o Welsh Cob gelding and have trained him myself through second level (which we showed at successfully this year). He is schooling all movements for 3-1 except for flying changes, which he and I are both unfamiliar with. Part of me wants to continue training him myself as our progress (very slow as it may be) is something I'm very proud of, but I also don't want to confuse him on flying changes or make it more difficult than it needs to be. My thoughts are either: school him with a trainer coaching from the ground, or send him to a trainer for a month or two and then have them school me in lessons on the changes. Any suggestions from those who have come to this fork in the road themselves?

    I am coming to this fork in the road.

    I already work with a trainer on the ground about 6-8 times a year. I find it helps us past those bumps and makes sure I'm not leaving holes like I did before working with her. So that would be my recommendation. Maybe do a series of lessons up front to establish the change. Then check in a few months later to make sure all is well.


      I'd probably prefer to have a horse trained by someone who has done so, just because it is so.freaking.difficult to fix a horse who has a habit of being late behind. You could probably do it with someone on the ground, but some horses need to have the changes worked on every single day for awhile while they get the concept, so my preference might be to subcontract this one.

      Once you've had someone teach him the single changes, there's still lots more to train including the tempis that you can probably do yourself with help - but it's so much easier to move on if you have a horse who has a clean, reliable single change.

      I'm in flying change hell with my horse at the moment, and a lot of trainers can tell you what flying change hell is like. Sometimes you need about 16 ways to teach them to get the message across. It can be hard if it's your first time, but everyone has to start somewhere.
      Originally posted by PeanutButterPony
      you can shackle your pony to a lawn chair at the long as its in a conservative color.


        I would be inclined to let the trainer put the changes on. My mare and I have “played” with changes and had a couple lessons where we worked on them (we were working 2nd/3rd level at the time). Then my body deserted me and I was off of her, more than on for several years for surgeries and the subsequent rehabs. I have been able to ride for 6 months now. She isn’t quite back to the quality of canter we need for FC yet but I am contemplating sending her to my former trainer (she moved away)d for a month when she is ready. She is quick to get anxious and I just think that would be minimized by someone that knows FC’s. I have also done all the work with my mare but have no problem getting help when I need it. I just turned 65...I don’t want to spend the rest of my riding life fixing something I mucked up. I have total confidence that I can train any other movement but correct FC’s...I have pause.

        Last edited by Kyrabee; Aug. 26, 2020, 01:43 PM.


          There are many books with excellent training advice out there. If you decide to continue mostly on your own, there are many resources to help you. I've never trained changes by myself, so admire those that do/have.

          If you've never done it yourself before, I'd suggest doing some research/homework and then starting out with a trainer.

          Good Luck.


            I breed, train, and show welsh cobs. I have taken 4 through 3rd level and 2 through Prix St. George. I chose to try to do it on my own from the beginning but always had an instructor to help assess and guide me through the process. I will say that had I paid a professional to have taken the first two in training I probably would have advanced faster and experienced less frustration. I don't regret my decisions, however, and am training a 6 year old to do flying changes now. He's coming along very well. He's shown successfully at second level as well and I hope to be able to debut him at third this fall or early winter (much depends on covid). My breeding program developed an individual who is better built for sport and my riding has improve along with a much larger toolbox to address bumps in the road regarding training. I owe all that to the ones who suffered through my mistakes previously - and yet we still have medals, ribbons, awards, etc to prove that at some point we conquered it. I would encourage you to have access to a trained eye on the ground while you go through the process. Good luck.
            Ranch of Last Resort


              I came to that fork in the road a little over a year ago. I had backed the horse myself, I was the only one who had ridden him and I was scoring in the high 60s at Second Level.

              There’s a long story that goes with this, but I’m lucky enough to have a BNT in my backyard who really, really liked the horse and offered to ride him in conjunction with my lessons (full training, which I fully pay for). Having a pro ride this horse means I’m going to have an FEI horse on my hands in short order. If I had tried to put changes on him myself, I’d probably have a reasonably good Third Level horse now, but, honestly, that’s probably as far as I’d be able to take it. I wasn’t a very competent rider, and while I’m a whole lot better than I was a year ago, I still have a long way to go. I have no regrets having a pro ride my horse; it’s making me a better rider than I could have imagined.
              Chronicles of the $700 Pony
              The Further Adventures of the $700 Pony
     <-- My Blog


                Have a pro ride him from the git-go. there are so many facets to a correct flying change, that having been there and done that helps. I would start with the trainer guiding you to the correct feel of the collection you need to start, then have the trainer ride him a bit first so that he is relaxed with her/ him. Some one rider horses get a little uptight with a new rider.
                Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                  Having just recently gone through this, I had a pro help, and have literally just turned the corner to having clean changes both directions. Mostly I had her instruct me during lessons and the focus was getting the right quality of canter and getting him to the place where he could be influenced. She would ride him once a week. Once we had one clean change, we were a bit stuck on the other, and her knowing what was going on underneath me was helpful finding the right approach for him for the light bulb moment. I think you'll save yourself a lot of frustration for both you and your horse if you have a pro sitting on the horse to begin with. I'm sure we would have had clean changes more quickly, but I didn't have the budget for full training.
                  "The best hearts are ever the bravest"


                    As many others have said, I would definitely not recommend doing this on your own - you will absolutely regret it if you have to fix a late-behind change down the road. Fixing a bad half-pass is one thing, but a late behind change is a whole other ballpark.

                    I put the changes on myself with help from the ground from several GP trainers. During this time, for the first few months, I almost never schooled them alone - I lessoned once a week and we would work on them a bit then (mostly other stuff, maybe just 10 minutes or so on changes). Eventually when we were more sure they were generally clean, I would sometimes school them on my own. For this (and other reasons), you definitely don't have to school them every day (and depending on the horse that might be a bad idea anyway). Now, we get 7.5/8's on our changes and the tempis are easy peasy. For context, I was an upper level rider but had never put changes on myself, so I felt confident I could do it with good guidance. YMMV. There is definitely no shame (and lots of benefit) to having a good pro do it to make it easier on everyone.
                    Last edited by Feathered_Feet; Aug. 27, 2020, 01:15 PM.


                      If you've never ridden correct changes before, it's not impossible, but it's very very hard to install changes. Even people who have ridden changes on many different horses struggle the first time they have to install them.

                      Option 1: Take a few lessons on schoolmasters to get the feel yourself, then sign up for boot camp (at least 2 lessons/week) with a trainer you trust and follow their advice.

                      Option 2: Put the horse in full training for a month, assuming you've done your homework and the horse is ready to learn.

                      Here are some common set-ups for flying changes that you can practice with simple changes at home:

                      Collected canter with energy/jump. Across the diagonal to counter-canter. Counter-canter through the corner. Ride a few strides medium, then a good half halt, then a few strides medium then a good half halt. All of that should happen before B/E. Then rather than medium/half halt, practice control of the shoulders. Bring them to the inside for two strides, then straighten. Then, two strides medium, half halt, simple change at B/E.

                      Medium canter up the centerline. Towards G or D, collected a bit and make a 10m circle. When you return to the centerline at G/D, facing A/C, simple change, and make a 10m circle the other direction. If the horse gets behind your leg, peel off the circle onto the diagonal for a medium, then pick up the exercise at the other end of the arena.


                        Find a trainer who has trained a number of horses to do clean dressage changes. (Hunter changes considered 'clean' are sometimes a half stride late by dressage criteria.)

                        It can be extremely hard to tell if a beginner's change is clean from the saddle, you (or anyone) really need eyes on the ground.

                        This trainer should confirm all the preparatory steps to clean changes: quality and balance of the canter, easy and prompt canter/walk and walk/canter transitions, etc. When those are reliably in place, they will have some favorite exercises to set your horse up for successful changes. Bonus if they have a horse with confirmed changes that you can lesson on to learn the timing for the aids.

                        Sure, it's possible to do it on your own, but if you inadvertantly teach him to do a change that's late behind you'll have nightmares trying to fix it.


                          If you are not experienced with changes, definitely have someone install them pretty reliably in the horse and then coach you on them. I learned how to teach changes from having some horses with somewhat difficult changes growing up. I've helped to clean up bad changes many times. I recently bought a horse with a late behind change but who doesn't have a clear reason for doing it that way other than he's been allowed to do it that way for probably the last 4 years (a jumper). I'm training him for the hunters (where I want the change not only cleaner but more "auto") and playing in dressage, and this is a much more difficult than the last horse I had that I taught from scratch. And even a bit more difficult than the last few physical problem / anxiety problem late change type horses I've worked with. This is one area where it can be really detrimental to fumble with your own learning curve. Some horses go through a phase where they get kind of mentally fried on the process. Others just need a lot of physical support. Others are more natural at it and it's an easy process, and maybe your coach could hand you the reins back for some lessons earlier in this case. But I would hesitate to try to do it yourself to find out you have a harder case and then have the pro try to step in.


                            I was watching a Warwick Schiller clinic featuring a dressage horse that was having trouble with changes. He broke it down to a leg yield right, (which he had her do multiple times alone), then followed immediately by a haunches in left. It worked like a charm. Just a different way to think about what is actually going on.


                              Originally posted by Incantation View Post
                              I was watching a Warwick Schiller clinic featuring a dressage horse that was having trouble with changes. He broke it down to a leg yield right, (which he had her do multiple times alone), then followed immediately by a haunches in left. It worked like a charm. Just a different way to think about what is actually going on.
                              One important thing about that video is the horse knew how to do a change but tended to rush into it, due to horse and rider anticipating. This exercise improved how the rider did the set up and gave the change aid. But it was not really about teaching the horse how to do a flying change, just helped the rider keep the horse in rhythm and more through in the change. So it might not fix various other problems that could come up with changes.

                              Basically, that strategy is in line with a lot of what he teaches in general. If there's anxiety about doing X, rather than focusing on doing X, come up with an exercise where the horse can't really help but do X to do the exercise. It turns anticipation being a bad thing into anticipation being a good thing. It was a good mental exercise but maybe not an exhaustive lesson in how to teach the mechanics of a clean change.

                              Interesting video nonetheless for anyone who wants to watch


                                Your option #2 is the best way to go. Every horse is different and a trainer who has put clean, straight flying changes on many horses will be able to get your horse started in the right direction. Once they are fairly reliable the trainer should be able to help you from the ground.


                                  I haven't really been there but just wanted to add that it greatly depends upon your goals and desires. If you want the shortest and least complicated way to get clean changes, then having a knowledgeable trainer install them would be best. If it is particularly important to you to train him yourself then you may not be happy with that approach. In that case you can likely still get it done with help from that trainer and a good minded horse. It may take longer and be frustrating, but as long as you are careful and capable of going through the process I know of several riders who had success that way. Sometimes it was budget, other times it was a desire to do it themselves, but it did work out. The ones that I know that tried it themselves and had major issues were trying without enough help (or in one case the rider really wasnt ready).


                                    There is definitely no shame in getting help. I've been lucky to have horses who changed *easily* since I was 13 or 14. I put changes on the horse I got at that age in my sale ride, he was that easy. Even though I wasn't riding dressage he had correct, uphill, changes, and I had him schooled through two tempis. I had no idea it wasn't supposed to be that easy!
                                    We never schooled changes on my TB, but every once in a while we would just ask for one and he'd do it. He naturally has a fantastic, uphill canter. He's also a bucker who goes bonkers at shows so we decided he's no show horse and therefore no reason to really school the changes.
                                    My older mare was one who always made changes from slight adjustments in her body position, and I started asking for them when galloping in two point out in the desert, and she would change off knee pressure adjusting her position. I went on a 17 day vacation a couple years ago and my trainer put changes in an arena, on the aids from collected canter on her while I was gone.
                                    My youngster has done a few with me when counter canter was harder than she wanted, and when she tried to lean into the bend and picked up the wrong lead and I booted her to get the correct lead, so she switched. I'm hoping changes are as easy with her as her brother who simply does them when asked and never really had to school for them.

                                    What I didn't realize originally was how important the canter quality is, and how hard it is to get changes without the correct canter. And that is simply easier to feel when the horse already knows changes.
                                    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                      I'd 100% have them installed by a professional experience with producing clean quality changes.

                                      I'm in flying lead change hell. The horse has a quality canter. It doesn't matter 😂 there are other factors at work, mostly in his head! Great that I'm putting in the work myself (with my instructor on the ground). But. Never. Again.

                                      Then I read posts like the one from netg and think, wow, I really must suck at this 🤣 everyone thought changes would be easy with this horse given his good canter quality, sensitivity, balance, and wanting to always offer more. NOPE.

                                      Fortunately trainers I've ridden with recently at clinics and in house have said it's normal, fine, and give it some time. Restored my sanity, slightly.


                                        Originally posted by CanteringCarrot View Post
                                        I'd 100% have them installed by a professional experience with producing clean quality changes.

                                        I'm in flying lead change hell. The horse has a quality canter. It doesn't matter 😂 there are other factors at work, mostly in his head! Great that I'm putting in the work myself (with my instructor on the ground). But. Never. Again.

                                        Then I read posts like the one from netg and think, wow, I really must suck at this 🤣 everyone thought changes would be easy with this horse given his good canter quality, sensitivity, balance, and wanting to always offer more. NOPE.

                                        Fortunately trainers I've ridden with recently at clinics and in house have said it's normal, fine, and give it some time. Restored my sanity, slightly.
                                        I've always heard that it can get worse before it gets better (mine certainly did!). Hopefully you're in the eye of the storm and you'll soon emerge victorious