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Flying changes—HELP!!!!

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    Flying changes—HELP!!!!

    Hi all, I just joined in a last ditch effort to get some help with flying lead changes, so if this post doesn’t belong, just let me know and I’ll take it down.

    My mare, Tessa, is a 12 year old friesian/quarter horse, and we primarily event.

    She is a healthy, physically capable horse. She’s had some chiropractic problems (super long illiums typical of friesian), but our chiropractor doesn’t think it is the root of our flying lead change issue.

    She doesn’t seem physically able to change her back lead, even over jumps, which has been an issue for our stadium and xc, but a sort-of manageable one as she’s capable of a remarkably balanced counter canter. Dressage-wise, I’d love to be able to do flying changes. She’s got a lovely half pass at the canter, and I’d love to be able to do flying changes so that we can do the back and forth half passes seen in upper level dressage (I don’t know what you’d call them). We don’t ride upper level dressage, but schooling some of the movements aids in Tessa’s development, and it’s just plain old fun!!!

    Does anyone have suggestions for some exercises that could help Tessa figure out how to change her back lead? Any and all advice would be appreciated, I’m sort of at my wits end.

    Also, I don’t think it’s an issue with me, I can cue flying lead changes on other horses. It seems to strictly be an issue with my mare, no other horse I’ve ridden or heard of has had this much difficulty. Thank you so much!!

    Do you have pictures or video? Sometimes odd crosses have conformation issues that make it hard. And Friesian/QH is one of the odder crosses that I've heard of.


      Interestingly I know two Friesian/Paint crosses that are related (solid black, not pinto pattern). They are nicely put together horses and look very Friesian. It's a new cross to me too and I am watching them with interest. I've known a couple of saddlebred/QH in the past that were very nice too, and didn't look like either SB or QH.


        More information is needed for us to offer you advise...How are your walk/canter and canter/walk transitions?

        Can you do counter canter- walk-true canter -walk- counter canter both directions and with no fuss?

        If the answer to the above questions is yes then usually you need to make the hind leg quicker (without going faster) and create almost a lighter hind leg or “croup” high canter to help your horse push the hind legs through.

        That said when I’ve put changes on off breeds (carriage horse types or Iberian) I’ve never had to do this... mostly they are to active and I’ve had to make the canter smaller so the horse can control the change and organize their legs.

        A video would be very helpful for us to help you although I understand that is very daunting..


          Have you seen her do proper lead changes at liberty?


            Make sure you are weighting the proper seatbone. Sit to the outside of the lead. If you overweight the inside (with your seat or your shoulders) the hind end can't step through and change cleanly.

            Will she change on xc, or when galloping in a field? If I don't care about proper dressage changes, I'll teach "racehorse changes" in an open field. Canter a big, slanted figure-8 in two point, when you get to the "corner" step strongly to the outside with a nudge (or kick!) and "shove" the shoulders onto the new lead. Kick again with outside leg if needed. If the change doesn't happen, reorganize and try again going a little faster. Praise lavishly when she changes. These front-to-back changes require less balance and strength, and at speed come very naturally to most horses.
            A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
            ? Albert Einstein



              Some of them need a step by step tutorial....

              Assuming you have canter/walk/canter down, this exercise (from Ingrid Klimke) helped a friend's horse.

              Get 4 trot poles and a helper. Set the poles so you cross the centerline from E/B at a distance that makes your horse march with an active hind leg at the walk.

              You will make a figure 8 over the poles, doing the canter/walk transition right before them, walking through them, and picking up the canter as you leave the last pole. Once she does all 4 poles consistently in both directions, have your helper take one pole away. Continue exercise, taking a pole away until you have one pole to walk over and when that is going well you ask for the change instead of the walk/canter.

              You can do this without the helper but you have to get on and off a lot.


                I am far from a flying change guru but I do know my mare was having trouble changing behind until we started working in a more uphill frame. Basically went from the longer neck dressage training level frame to the shorter dressage 1st level frame. After a few weeks with that, she was using her butt more in general and properly uphill balanced to change behind.

                Before that, I had to do a lot of half halts to get her uphill and attempt a change. We are still working on it so we use a ground pole to help with the change and she went from plunging/bolting over the pole either without changing at all or just changing in front to a consistent, bounding, excited lead change.


                  I've never actually had to teach flying changes, never really was at a level I needed to do it. But not being able to change over jumps makes me think something is going on, either balance/strength wise or flexibility wise if everything physical has been ruled out. Can you pick up both leads from a walk? I would think the walk/canter/walk/counter canter exercises would help a lot.


                    You say, she has really lovely H/P, on both reins. Have you shown her a this level under the critical eye of a judge or has your instructor watched it?
                    As asked before, how are her walk-canter transitions, particularly her canter-walk transition? The later are more difficult.
                    While counter canter is considered part of the progression, some horse find it too easy to remain in CC.

                    The other critical thing is timing of the aids, both o/f, and on the flat.

                    How is she under your instructor?
                    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.


                      Have you tried the old counter over a pole in the ring/change directions exercise? and I agree with the poster who asked if you've seen her do them in the field at will. I had a QH paint that would rather crash into a fence than change his lead. he would lead land but not do auto changes; new horse does them out in the field like they're nothing, so you barely have to ask when you change direction.


                        I had a halter bred QH. He was long backed and downhill. He pretty much could not do a clean flying change. He was the master at changing the front and doing a trot step in the back to change. It was really hard for him to get his butt under himself and balanced. He preferred a really quick simple change. He was HYPP N/H so I don't know if that played into it.
                        I know 2 Friesan crosses and both are very good at clean dressage changes but they are both WB/Friesan.

                        No real suggestions other than get help sooner than later. I think a lot of my issues with my QH was he got confirmed in doing it wrong so it made it harder to try to fix it.
                        Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                          You say "even over a jump".. have you tried using an open rein over the jump to get the lead?

                          So, in the air... you would take the hand of the lead you want to land on and while keeping a feather light contact pull it away from the neck until there is a triangle between the horses mouth, your hand, and the neck.

                          This will shift your weight ever so slightly in the direction you want, and the horse will naturally try to land under you and on the lead that is most comfortable.


                            Silence is golden-sometimes.

                            Perhaps we all asked the wrong questions, or gave the wrong answers.
                            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.


                              Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                              Silence is golden-sometimes.

                              Perhaps we all asked the wrong questions, or gave the wrong answers.
                              It's the risk we take when we comment on a user's very first post.


                                Well, I found all the replies very helpful, although I'm not the OP. I have a Hannoverian, that does beautiful natural lead changes in the pasture, but I haven't yet started asking for lead changes under saddle. I love some of these ideas, and will soon be putting them to use! Thanks everyone.
                                (And sometimes life gets in the way, perhaps the OP is busy! Not everyone has access to a computer all the time.)


                                  The Ritters seem to have very good exercises for setting up and teaching flying changes, perhaps check them out.

                                  I will say, my old, now-retired TB mare never had a good change, even with really good trainers trying to teach her. I would ask for the lead over the fence. We suspect (based on other issues) she may have injured her pelvis at the track. She was happy to jump 4' and do everything else for lower level eventing, though! She would change leads out in pasture but not as easily as other horses, and it often looked (even more so now at 26 years old) like a bit of a scramble.
                                  Custom and semi-custom washable wool felt saddle pads!


                                    OP may or may not find it useful, but a great exercise for inciting flying changes is canter renvers (aka haunches-out). Start down the long side in shoulder-in, and develop renvers as you go from mid-point to corner. If the canter is even in both reins and you can feel the outside hind sit and take weight, ask for a change.

                                    Although in my experience, your horse will try to steal a change before you get to that point.

                                    You can make it harder by riding the same exercise, but in counter-canter.

                                    If at any time the canter quality (rhythm, tempo, ground-cover, etc.) disappears, reestablish that first before getting back into the movements.


                                      That sound familiar to something I saw at a Ritter clinic.

                                      However, flying changes to be correct need to be straight.
                                      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.


                                        Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                                        That sound familiar to something I saw at a Ritter clinic.

                                        However, flying changes to be correct need to be straight.
                                        Agreed... but when you're introducing them, all they have to do is happen (and be united). Straightness/correctness comes later.

                                        It's a good reminder though. The haunches-out exercise can exacerbate swinging tendencies, so use sparingly.