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Flying changes

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  • Flying changes

    Hello! I hope this thread is in the right place.

    I have a 15 hand Haflinger gelding who is 8 years old. He was started late but had very good training for two years before I got him. When he came to me, I'd say he was a solid training level. He got decent scores at recognized shows and also did novice level eventing. I've had him for about 6 months and we've come a long way. He's ready to show first level and we're schooling second level. We've been working on starting lateral movement: leg-yields, just a little shoulder-in, haunches-in, turn on the forehand, and haunches.

    My issue is that he's a heavy guy. His sire is Nobleman of Tudor Oaks, and his grandsire is Nabucco (who is, as far as I can tell from the pictures, very heavily built). The last six months I've been working on getting him off the forehand and lately have been introducing to him the idea of a flying change.

    My question is (sorry for all the backstory) does anyone else have this same issue with Haflingers or drafty type horses who are built a little heavier on the forehand? What have you done to correct it? Is it just a matter of continually strengthening his topline and engaging his hind end?

    Thank you for reading.
    Last edited by GiantPonylvr; Jan. 19, 2009, 01:22 PM.

  • #2
    nope -- matey sounds like they couldnt be bothered to trian you or that they dont know how to excute the flying change an a green horse theres more than one way to teach it


    • #3
      I would not teach flying changes until your counter canter is solid. Can you do multiple serpentines of canter (more than the required 3 loop serpentine)? Also lots of circles of different sizes of true and counter canter. And correct simple changes.
      And you need to be able to move his shoulders around to allow the hind end to come under to get the suspension and collection needed for 2nd level and beyond.
      lots of shoulder in, travers, renvers, half pass which are strengthen exercises for more freedom.

      I am riding a 6 yr welsh cob that is naturally built to be ground loving. It is hard work to get him in a more suspended movement but it is coming along slowly. Comments from a few judges were to get more collection and suspension in his second level tests. I won't teach him flying change until later this year when we have competed again at second level with higher 60's for scores. We do lots of lateral work as well as gaits within gaits. He must work with his neck long --not shortened as is his natural preference -- back up, shoulders free, hind end active and under.

      good luck


      • #4
        That was incredibly helpful! Thank you very much for your reply.

        He does maintain a pleasantly balanced counter canter, which is why I was inclined to start with flying changes in the new future, but from what you said, it seems pretty clear now that my gelding does need more practice with lateral work.

        This makes me feel better. An acquaintance recently told me it's likely he's just incapable of doing them, which really put a damper on my mood but now I feel a bit better. I love that horse.


        • #5
          Unfortunately, trainers don't always tell us what we want to hear. And just as unfortunately, that doesn't always mean they're wrong. You may go from trainer to trainer and hear the same thing. If you always believe the one who tells you what you want to hear, you will probably empty your pocketbook and still not get what you want.

          I haven't had the privilege of riding any really sport type Halflingers in a long time. Most of the ones we have around here are quite long and heavy and have a low mass, with a heavy shoulder, low set neck and they are not really compact or strong behind. They're 'drafty', but not well built for sport type riding. People are constantly telling me they are 'compact' and have 'a short back', but actually they do not have a short back and definitely cannot and do not CANTER 'compactly'. Their hind legs stay on the ground longer and the suspension is short to nonexistent, so that means the dressage style flying change is a herculean task for them.

          The hind legs are not quick and with quite a few of them, the canter doesn't even feel like a natural gait, and they have to practically gallop in a very long, horizontal posture, and can't actually canter in balance.

          I've seen quite a few people put 'hunter changes' on these horses - they kind of push downward in the change, unweight their hind quarters, and 'swap' a la hunter, in a low, flat gait, just like the hunters want them to change.

          It is quite difficult to get a horse that's more drafty to change a la dressage horse, which is a much different posture, almost as if going up a hill, lifting the shoulders because the hind legs are under and pushing, and they are truly cantering, a very compact, balanced package.

          Fortunately or unfortunately, I went through teaching a horse changes that had no natural balance what so ever.

          This is a very, very long process and the results are not usually very good. The horse might be fun for you to ride and show the world 'he can do it', but I doubt the changes will be very good if the trainer was telling the truth.

          The trainer may, actually, have been telling the truth.

          It's quite possible that the only REAL problem is that the horse is not forward off your leg. Some of your comments about what was said suggest that. If so, I hope you are courageous, because reteaching that after you've let it go on for a while is not a pretty business. Getting a horse to do good dressage is not always about saying, 'please horsey, do it for mommy'. There's a point where you have to teach them they have to fly from the wind of your boot.

          To get a horse to do flying changes that is not really built for it and does not really have the canter for it, you are in for a very, very long and difficult battle. You will have to ride the hair off the horse's back to get him to do it, and I hope you like using your whip and have something that makes you very angry that you can think about while you're making the horse do it

          You have to start, not where you think, with trying to convince the horse to change. That's the biggest mistake everyone makes. Just forget about doing or getting any changes, for at least a year.

          You need to go back and make this horse better on the bit, straighter, more supple, and then canter better than you ever possibly imagined.

          You're going to have to attend to the walk canter transition to a level of perfection and straightness that is positively anal.

          You're going to have to take the 'pleasant' counter canter and make it so you can canter along the wall in counter canter with your horse's nose on the wall and him practically cantering in place.

          You're going to get on the 20 m circle and do thousands of walk canter transitions, from the counter lead to the true lead, til you can do 4 evenly spaced walk canter transitions on a 20 m circle. either with three steps, two steps, one step or a half a step.

          You're going to do walk canter transitions with ONE HALF a walk step only, and walk canter transitions from a rein back, two steps of rein back only or one, no more.

          You're going to do walk pirouettes, and then from the walk pirouette pick up the canter and immediately go medium on the circle. You'll go across the diagonal at medium canter, do three steps of highly collected canter almost in place and then fly forward as hard as you can go.

          In other words, you are going to take a slow hind leg and make it quick. You're going to take a horse with weak hindquarters and back and make it strong. You're going to take a horse with a heavy shoulder and neck and low mass, and teach him how to be a ballerina.

          And if he stays sound for that (which I doubt), then you can work on the flying lead changes.

          And then, you can tell me if it was worth it, to satisfy your ego, to make that horse lame.

          If the trainer was right, she was trying to tell you, this work is too hard for this horse and in order to get him to do flying changes a la dressage, you have to work him so hard and make him do things so unnatural to him that he probably will not stay sound doing it.

          Sure. Of course. Perhaps the trainer is just an idiot, doesn't know how to train horses, and/or hates Halflingers. There's always that possibility.

          If it was my horse, I'd take him to the best trainer I could get time with, no matter what it cost me, and no matter what I had to do to make it happen. And I'd ask that trainer to ride and evaluate the horse, and tell me if it was fair to ask the horse to do the work. And that trainer, I would consider believing, even if he told you what you did not want to hear.

          What makes us happy to hear, isn't always right for our horses. Every horse has a job he was meant for, and is comfortable doing, and can do happily for years. Or we can get greedy, and try to make them be more than they are, and ruin them.

          A training level, first level, second level schoolteacher horse who can teach riders what they know is worth its weight in gold...if someone is able to see their value.


          • #6
            I have to ditto what jcotton recommends as we have the same breed and some of the same challenges My guy I would venture to guess is a bit more challenging with his conformation because he is truly built down hill and is heavy in front. I have always focused on strengthening the hind end. Lots and lots of transitions, rebalancing and really working hard on lateral suppleness as well as longitudinal suppleness. Fortunately my guy likes and easily does changes. Of course despite that my challenge is making him remain slow and collected in the tempi's as he naturally wants to power through them (on the forehand if he can). There is no sense in asking such a horse to do flying changes until you have developed a true collected canter, can do simple changes with ease - even better if you can count the walk sequence and get the transitions exactly where you want them. Then the changes happen or can happen without issue or drama.

            What have you done to correct it? Is it just a matter of continually strengthening his topline and engaging his hind end?

            My guy has a very "dramatic forehand" as some welsh cobs do. In order to avoid "late behind" though he seldom is I had to really slow down the forehand and "rev" up the hind leg. Basically we're talking engagement but with this particular horse it's how I had to think about it in order to achieve it. So an active hind leg may be one "key" to what some may consider a less than ambitious horse - just a thought.
            Last edited by exvet; Jan. 18, 2009, 04:02 PM. Reason: Almost forgot ;)
            Ranch of Last Resort


            • #7
              Have you noticed that in the tests at 2nd you are doing S/I, H/I and collected canter, and counter canter. It's not until 3-1 do you think of flying change.

              At that point you already need to have a horse capable of collecting at the canter. The S/I and H/I are not freestanding goals. They are gymnastic stepping stones.
              So until you have those down, you will have difficulty getting the collection you need to do flying changes. (As opposed to swapping leads )
              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.


              • #8
                I have a very heavy drafty horse that was showing 2nd level and schooling third last year. I work with an FEI BNT and she does not want to start introducing the flying change until he is more up hill and through his back. We are going to stay at showing 2nd level and schooling third without the flying change until he starts to feel like he is ready to offer it which he is not right now. I fully expect to be at this stage this year and look to 2010 to be able to move up to third. I am fine with that. My horse's progression has been nothing short of phenominal and beyond what I thought he would be able to do. We feel more is there given more time to get stronger and confident with all the lateral movements and collected work.

                Find a trainer who will take the time you and your horse need. There is no rush and hurry...it's the journey.
                *Every horse is a self-portrait of the rider....Autograph your work with excellence.*
                Supporting Nokotas www.nokotahorse.org
                Lipizzan's rock! http://rigitta.blogspot.com/


                • #9
                  Sorry I agree with your first trainer. Changes will be a problem. They obviously do not come easily to him or you wouldn't be asking this question.

                  You won't need them in a test for quite some time yet, so just play about with them now and again. Nothing is impossible.


                  • #10
                    Forgot to add in my earlier post that you need variety in all your different exercises so that you don't bore your horse to death and the muscles have time to build. Do different things and work certain muscles every other day,...
                    You may want to throw some interval training in for condition purposes as well as a good mind cleaning gallop sets. I do 2 trot sets of 3-4 minutes with a 3-5 minutes walk between each and then 2 canter sets of 3-4 minutes with 3-5 minutes walk between and finish with a long & low, loose ground covering trot(not necessarily on the forehand but active hind end) also 3-4 minutes.
                    If you haven't done any conditioning, you will need to start with less and build up. If you have a nice quiet dirt road to work on or a hay field, these are great places to condition.


                    • #11
                      I do not understand how flying changes will make a horse lame. That was a very long post.

                      There seem to be a lot of naysayers on this BB. Ambition has nothing to do with it. A dressage trainer is supposed to make your horse the best dressage horse he can be, no matter how he's built. Even if that means he's not going to wow anyone, if the work is correct changes will come.

                      I think it depends on the horse and the training, flying changes are supposed to be fairly natural to most horses and many do them loose in their pasture. People that jump crack out flying changes as soon as the horse is under saddle but dressage people want to wait until a certain level before doing them.

                      My dressage trainer has a client that showed western pleasure on her QH before the QH retired from that at 18. She decided to take a whack at dressage. He's now 25 and confirmed 3rd level complete with flying changes. He looks like a QH, moves like a QH, is built down hill, but his dressage is correct and he has a ton of heart. If that horse can do from western pleasure to third level dressage with an amature owner then any horse can. The training is there. If your horse is doing correct dressage (Taking into consideration his natural limitations) there shouldn't be a problem.


                      • #12
                        Thank you everyone for replying! These are all good things to consider. I really appreciate having so many different perspectives on this issue. Either way, I love this horse very much and I don't want to rush anything or irritate him. Everything about dressage involves a long road requiring patience and dedication so I think this will in the long run be a good lesson for me not just in how to ask for something from a horse, but in order to learn to develop him properly and creating a willing, athletic partner. Honestly, I'll be thrilled if we make it to second level one day.


                        • #13
                          I do not think you need to solidify counter canter before starting changes. You may have a much harder time teaching flying changes if the horse doesn't have a nautrally uphill balanced canter and counter canters around and around the arena! Can he do a walk/canter transition? I would work on solidifying those transitions, making sure he can accordian in both the canter and trot, do some counter canter (do not punish a change) and try ffor some changes. Tell your new trainer your goals, and hopefully she can help you get there.


                          • #14
                            my husband's haffie likes to show off his very exuberant changes all the time in the field-and he is one of the draftier ones as well. Now if only my fancy warmbloods would take the hint.

                            Does yours do his when he is free? That seems to be a good indicator of what his natural tendencies are...
                            Cornerstone Equestrian
                            Home of Amazing (Balou du Rouet/Voltaire) 2005 KWPN Stallion
                            RPSI, KWPN reg B, and IHF nominated


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GiantPonylvr View Post
                              That was incredibly helpful! Thank you very much for your reply.

                              He does maintain a pleasantly balanced counter canter, which is why I was inclined to start with flying changes in the new future, but from what you said, it seems pretty clear now that my gelding does need more practice with lateral work.

                              This makes me feel better. An acquaintance recently told me it's likely he's just incapable of doing them, which really put a damper on my mood but now I feel a bit better. I love that horse.
                              I think its very important as we train to have a clear eye on the future. Every time you make a transition to canter you are working on flying changes. If you pay attention to the nitty gritty details of what you are doing in all your work, the changes will start to come. On my 1st/2nd level horses I will start by playing with them once a month or so. I just do the best set up and see where the horse is at. For some horses when you put ingredients together and ask for something more complicated the dots connect and the basics by that alone get a little better. Others just go 'huh?' and you figure out what isn't making sense and therefore have you homework spelled out for you. Sometimes you just won't know something is not up to the standard you need it until you ask for it at the level you WANT it to be at. Stretch the comfort zone for you and the horse so that your zone of skill and knowledge is bigger.... just don't break it. But you do have to stretch it and keep it flexible or it gets brittle and your zone of comfortable skills shrinks.

                              "Isn't ambitious enough..." is a nice way to say they can't be bothered to at least try to take the horse and you as far as you can go at the pace it may take you. Some folks like quick and easy so they can 'produce results'.

                              Can your horse do them? I don't know. Heavy built doesn't seem to be an impediment I've ever seen. I've trained a number of very drafty horses who were all capable of them both in the field and at least for a 5 in a show during those accidental lack of maintaining the counter canter. I've owned and have clients with STOCKY qh types and they do changes. All I know is I once helped a woman teach them to her 25yr gaited morgan/mustang cross.. He was sound. He was full of it, and it took 2 yrs of nearly weekly lessons from the time we started on filling in the gaps in the basics and putting the pieces together. I was pretty sure he'd never do them and was very up front that if at anytime I thought it unfair to ask something of him that would be it for me in the deal. They weren't super pretty (she was doing it to pass a sort of horse training certification) so perfect 'dressage' quality was not a factor- croup high, a little swingy through the haunches, but she learned a ton in the process and he thrived on learning something new. It put pieces together for her that she'll have forever with the other horse's she owns or works with.

                              So, it does sound like you have more foundation to lay, but not beyond the realm of possibility to at least be thinking about. What's that saying.... shoot for the stars and you'll get to the moon?......


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by horsechick View Post
                                my husband's haffie likes to show off his very exuberant changes all the time in the field-and he is one of the draftier ones as well. Now if only my fancy warmbloods would take the hint.

                                Does yours do his when he is free? That seems to be a good indicator of what his natural tendencies are...
                                You know, that's actually kind of funny. Whenever he gets turned out he immediately stops and eats. Sometimes he'll trot off or canter off if the other horses are galloping away. I would really love to go out in the field and chase him around just a little bit to see what happens because he hardly runs around when I'm there to watch so I've never actually seen him do a change while loose.


                                • #17
                                  I don't think waiting a specific (significant or not) amount of time is what we're suggesting at all; but, that there is a certain logical sequence to the training process that may be longer for some horses versus others. I think having specific goals is great and does allow people and horses to achieve more than if they didn't have any idea where they were/are headed. I will be showing my welsh cob Prix St. George at the next show. Very few people would ever have predicted that he would have made it to third level much less progress further. I set specific goals for this particular welsh cob based on what I knew and felt he could do despite naysayers and those who implied that I was asking too much of the guy because of this conformation. However, knowing the challenges that we faced I had to make sure that I worked to make him as strong and as fit as I possibly could in order for him to do what others didn't think he could muster. Building strength does take time. Conditioning work and the exercises suggested are all apart of making one's horse have a greater chance of succeeding. I don't know about your Haffie, though he is adorable, but my guy wants to please and gets upset when he doesn't get something right. I also risk greater chance of injury if I ask him to do something too soon or too many times before he's strong enough. Only you and your trainer know if it's reasonable to start working on flying changes or not. I feel, though, that it's a rider's responsibility to set a horse up to succeed which is why I suggested and I believe some of the others too that making sure you have certain aspects of his training in place before working on the flying changes in earnest. Good luck with your endeavors.
                                  Ranch of Last Resort


                                  • #18
                                    Well Said Exvet!

                                    My cob knows when he has done a good job and begs for carrots.
                                    On the days that he put out less and had an attitude, he won't beg for carrots.
                                    I think this is very funny and love seeing his mind work.


                                    • #19
                                      Horses do Flying changes easily (most of them anyway) in the paddock if they are out of shape, in peak condition, schooling1st level, 3rd level or GP. If you make changes a big deal they will be. Play with you horse. If you can do canter walk transitions, bring the canter forward and back fairly easily off your seat, where he "sits" down behind (relative to the level of training) then there is no reason the horse can't try changes. If it doesn't work, change the subject and don't punish him, and save it for a lesson. Your horse looks like he has a good connection, is forward to the connection, and fairly well balanced for his conformation. Have fun and try it! It's how you progress! If you waited until you could do 20 meter circles perfectly 100% of the time beofre trying anything else, well, we'd all still be on those 20 meter circles. Don't be afraid to try something just because it's in 3rd level test and you are working on 2nd level stuff! You may be very suprised that he loves changes, and has tempi's down before half pass!
                                      I have seen way too many horses that are 10+yo with relatively good basics, that no one ever taught chagnes to because xyz. The horse will counter canter till the cows come home, and changing leads doesn't enter the horses mind. Those horses often can be hard to teach to changes to. Use the horses natural inclination to change and relatively unbalanced counter canter to your benifit. Have fun! Get outside you comfort zone! If it doesn't work oh well, try again later!