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Counter canter vs Flying changes

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  • Counter canter vs Flying changes

    So, I believe my horse is ready to begin his training in flying lead changes. Any advise is welcome!!!

    12 year old clyde tb cross. We have never confirmed changes. Here is what I have done to prepare, but I am still having trouble getting the changes.

    He has walk-canter transitions down. Simple changes down to 1-2 trot strides. Counter canter in both directions. He has some lateral work confirmed (shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yeilding, and half-pass at walk, getting stonger at half-pass in trot).

    I canter down my diagnal, sit back, change my aids, use my new outside seat aid, and I get nothing. Not even an attempt to change. Poles on the ground do not get us anywhere either.

    There is no medical reason as to why he should not be changing. I just dont think he gets it. He has beautiful changes when i play with him in the indoor ring free lounging.

    I have heard so many mixed reviews on just counter canter training, and then just flying lead change training. I am stuck, and just dont know what to do next. Please help!
    Esmarelda, "Ezzie" 1999 Swedish Warmblood

    "The world is best viewed through the ears of a horse."

  • #2
    Yes, he simply doesn't understand what you want. You need to find an exercise that will make him offer the change so that you can reward it. (It doesn't even have to be a clean change--just something in the right direction.)

    Sometimes an exercise like halt-left c. depart-halt right canter depart--repeated in rapid succession will work because it is actually easier to do a change than the canter depart from the halt. So the horse evades by doing a change. You reward that and keep building on it.

    Some horses will pick it up if you use the horse's natural tendency to anticipate in a different way. For example, travers (haunches in) on the short side, cross the diagonal straighten at x and change to travers the other way. (For example, if you are tracking right on the short side, then continue in travers right on the diagonal, straighten at x and pick up travers left.) If you repeat that in the trot a few times, then do it in the canter, asking for the change of bend right after x, you may get a change because the horse anticipates the travers.

    Just play around with stuff like this and reward any progress. The important thing is the change of BEND in the horse, not just a change in your aids. The horse must be responding to those aids.
    Good luck.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


    • #3
      My favorite change-teaching exercise.

      Walk to canter. Canter down centerline from A to L. Half pass from L to R, maintaining counter lead at R. Between R and M, ask for change. If you don't get it, make a canter to halt transition and then halt to canter on the correct lead.

      Draftie crosses are usually pretty smart cookies. A few of these, and he'll probably get the message.

      Good luck, and keep us posted.
      In loving memory of Laura Jahnke.
      A life lived by example, done too soon.


      • #4
        You are not yet doing true simple changes. Simple changes through the trot do not require the same amount of engagement and collection as true simple changes (through walk). Also, doing only 1 to 2 strides of trot encourages the horse to rush through the trot. In the simple changes (through walk or trot) the focus must not be on changing leads, but making two distinct transitions and having three distinct gaits. We do not carry on to the second transition until the horse is clearly in a balanced trot or walk in a good rhythm.

        Work on canter - walk transitions, and then move on to true simple changes. First work on these through the true canters and then start working on doing them down the longside, transitioning in and out of your true and counter canters. The horse still needs to learn more engagement and about the aids (so use the tiniest aids you can). The "trick" to the changes is not in the change itself, but in keeping the quality of the canter the same through out the exercises. Doing things which incorporate counter canter, true canter and simple changes through walk will help him to develop engagement and co ordination and allow you to sharpen him to the aids.

        Once you have the horse more collected (ie able to run trough a second level test with ease) then playing with the changes for a while can be a good thing. You have to watch that you are ready to ride the reaction though. Some horses do start bolting or bucking when they are confused and you need to be able to half halt the horse back with your seat strong enough to counter this. Also once you start the changes you come to a different part in the training where you must be 100% committed to riding every stride. This point in the training is the defining point for many riders - those who remain passengers and those who become riders. For this reason it is especially useful to have a coach on the ground.

        How I like to baby start my changes before I find out what the horse is like and can tailor the exercise is: Ride down the longside in true canter - keeping a fresh collected canter but not too strung out like a working canter - do a half 15m circle after I have passed B or E and head towards the longside I came from. If the canter is still collected and good I'll half halt and aid for the change, if it's not I'll simply walk and do a simple change. Play with aiding for the change right out of the turn and closer to the wall. If you change your leg and nothing happens walk immediately and pick up the new lead. This is telling you you aren't committed to the change and aren't riding it 100%. Do a strong half halt with your back the next time and slide your legs and aid like you mean it. In this case it may be good to try the changes on the long side 3rd or 4th track in from counter canter (make sure you keep the quality of the canter in mind). In some cases when you slide the legs and aid the horse bucks or bolts. This becomes tricky and a change in exercise to one which has a shorter line may be good (like a serpentine or figure of 8 with 15m loops). Or we may just have to aid closer to the wall.

        Good luck! Remember to keep the quality of the canter in mind, listen to your horse and tailor the exercise so that he can learn! And stay committed!


        • #5
          What has worked for me on older horses is riding what i call a flat figure eight. Preferably at one end of the ring. Turn off wall riding 10m half circle towards the short end. Ride straight for 3-5 strides. This gives time to prepare the change, make the horse aware that you will be asking for something soon. Change bend, seat, legs a couple strides from wall going in new direction. Continue. . .
          For the youngsters I jump them, asking for change over jump, with jump in middle of arena on centerline. Over a few days i will lower jump, eventually just pole on the ground, then i ask for change riding next to pole, not over it. Then goodbye pole.
          And like previous post, really important that canter quailty is good, and doing canter-walk trans.


          • #6

            Get Kyra Kyrklunds vol 6 its the best training dvd ever!


            • #7
              Well, I was told by my previous trainer that my horse " will never do changes". She tried and tried and tried to no avail. It's a Friesian btw and canter has never come naturally to her.

              I worked on getting her stronger for a year and then tried a different method (I haven't taught changes before but this method was suggested to me). What I did was very collected canter to the left on a twenty meter circle, whip in left hand. I wait until I have almost come to the wall and apply the aids for right lead canter. She would switch in front but not in the back so I just tried to keep her on as small of a circle as possible to right whilst tapping on the haunches with the whip (right hand/inside). At first she tried to run away from me when I asked for the change and started tapping (of course) so I switched to a pelham to reinforce my half halts (if you have a more sensitive ride you probably don't need to do this). Day two she got it almost right away and after a week she would get a clean change on the first try.

              I think it's really important though to make sure the canter is strong enough. And yes, canter/walks , walk/canters should already be established.

              Maybe not the conventional way but it was very effective.

              "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.


              • #8
                I have done some of the above mentioned exercises with success, and another one that I really like is putting the horse on a 20 meter circle and doing three strides true canter- walk- three strides counter canter- walk- three strides true canter- walk- three strides counter canter, then ask for the change to true canter. The horse anticipates the walk transition coming, so stays balanced and is ready for an aid, and it really helps to make the horse aware of the canter aids to obtain the desired leads, so that when you change the aids, they realize it. It also is a great strength building exercise to perfect the canter-walk transitions. It doesn't work for all horses (if they tend to suck back in the change), but for the ones that get a little too forward and like to bolt/buck a little, it does help to set them on their tush and prepare them for the change. Good luck!


                • #9
                  I have found this following exercise quite helpful. Lets say you are cantering on the left lead. Now when you are just turning a corner to enter the long side start a leg yield towards the center line over about 3 to 4 strides, maintain your leg aids in the same position and just use stronger outside aids to move him over. Use your inside leg to maintain the integrity of the canter.

                  Next switch your aids and leg yield back towards the wall. You have to make this switch with distinction and move the shoulders rather quickly. This shift in weight will help make the horse change. You have to be fluid in your change of aids and the horse must react quickly to them. I find this really shows how well your horse responds to outside aids. Furthermore, this exercise done along the wall encourages straightness.

                  The change should NOT be done by just changing the flexion in the neck. The horse must move his shoulders, rib cage and weight. Be careful the haunches don't swing too much, but they will probably swing when just beginning.

                  I also like to canter half pass from center line to like just past E or B, straighten and change hopefully before the corner. If he doesn't change by the corner, then try to use the corner to your advantage and attempt there.

                  Finally, I find having solid control over the shoulders really helps with changing the weight from one side to the other and the bend thru the rib cage. This ultimately comes down to how well your horse responds to your outside aids and proper bend from inside to outside. I think sometimes people forget that and focus too much on swinging the hind end over.

                  Remember to never punish a change when you are teaching changes. The horse will sometimes change when you go back to counter canter work. Just calmly transition to walk and reestablish your counter canter. Remember your weight aids. If you accidentally change them in counter canter you are really giving them an aid for a flying change. Have fun!