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Lead Changes - help please

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  • Lead Changes - help please

    Hi!
    So... I searched and searched and couldn't quite find what I was looking for... So..

    My horse and I are going training level eventing and doing 1st level dressage, schooling some second. We are doing pretty well with stuff and really getting stronger at our canter. We've got the counter canter fairly well although he will break to the trot or swap up front 3/4 of the way through a circle if I try to keep it too long on a circle. (I will admit that we only have a small dressage arena and it's much harder at home... out in the open, or in standard dressage arena's he seems to do the three loop counter canter just fine). We're soooo close to getting our canter to walks and are pretty good at our walk to canters. When we jump... we just can't seem to get our changes. He will canter around fairly balanced at the cross canter or counter canter most of the time, though sometimes it's a mess. He'll swap in front but rarely swaps behind. Out on cross country I'm pretty sure he swaps clean eventually but he's also moving out more and I'm not asking for it.. he just offers it on his own.

    I'm getting to the point where I realize this shouldn't be an issue.. and we need to fix it. For awhile I just did simple changes or continued to counter canter to the jumps cause he felt fairly balanced.
    But... this is a 12 year old horse... and we're going training level so he SHOULD be able to get changes!! I know there is the big argument about dressage changes vs hunter changes.. and I don't want to do dressage changes yet.. I don't think he's got enough collection for that. But I do feel like he should be able to do hunter changes in our stadium and XC rounds.

    He's fit. He's had some lameness issues, but has had his hocks injected, has his back pain treated, been treated for EPM, though it was not confirmed and was a very mild case if present, and has been on Adequan. He's also been massaged, to the chiropracter, and had acupuncture. But... none of those really seemed to make a bit of a difference as far as changes go. He's more comfortable certainly but it hasn't made him seem more comfortable changing. I'm pretty positive he's got a weak right hind, and when we are out galloping.. he's more comfortable on his right lead and will swap to his right from the left lead when we are really going. I'll admit I honestly can't tell at that pace if it's clean or slow behind. I'm betting it's slow behind.

    The big problem I'm sure.. is me!! I have NO IDEA how to really ask for a flying change. No one has ever really taught me, and... when I try.. I feel like I make things worse. I feel like I throw him way off balance and screw him up. The last time we tried he ended up cross cantering and pulling a shoe off! Doh!! I know how to ask for a regular canter and how to ask for a counter canter, but I can't seem to put it together for the swap.

    So... I'm planning on working with my trainer but thought you guys might be able to walk me through the aids for one so I can try some at home. I think *I* need help with me, as well as help with hints for teaching him too.

    Thanks in advance. I'm so embarassed, but.... help please!

  • #2
    Fleck,

    Have you tried using poles to support the change? I watched Lellie help a woman get changes on her horse last week using a balanced, rhythmic canter and poles - she had NEVER gotten changes before, was frustrated...it worked, I think the very first time, and every time after.

    Someone on COTH will be able to explain it better than me...or better yet, give Lell a call.

    ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

    Comment


    • #3
      For me, I feel that the change becomes too big a deal for most. If you can ask for a canter departure, you can ask for a proper change. All that the change is is a canter departure. I tell everyone, "If you can canter from the walk and trot, there is no reason that you can't canter from the canter.". All you have to do is to make sure that your horse is cantering in a square and balanced manner and then, ask for the opposite lead canter depart. This was explained to me by George many years ago and has never failed me. I spent years trying to demystify changes and he did it in one minute by explaining that it was but a canter depart.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm so embarassed, but.... help please!
        don't be , you are not alone. my guy's changes are crap in stadium, but fine on xc. The problem is me and I think I'm just croooked in the saddle. It's the "dang it, he didn't change behind, I'll try to force it, by sitting crooked in the saddle" moment. How stupid is that? I know he can do them, so clearly the problem is me, also.

        sorry I don't have any suggestions other than keep working on it, sounds like you've done all the right prep work.

        Comment


        • #5
          I've been there! I used to do way to much with my body and hands and my poor horse was very confused. Once I stopped trying so hard it got a lot better. I like what Revelations said about asking for a canter departure, that's basically what I do now, but I've never thought of it that way. Learn something new everyday! I also tried asking for the changes over a pole and I found that helpful. good luck!

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thanks guys! You're making me feel better

            And yeah... I tell myself... just ask for the canter lead like you would ask for it from the trot, but then... I do serious contortions and end up getting him all frazzled. But I'll try that! And use the pole too. Do you basically just canter them over to the pole, jump it, and try to land on the opposite lead?

            I think part of my problem too is he's so hesitant to land on that left lead that it takes a very overexaggerated effort to get him to even land on the left lead. Until recently!! I figured out a trick... it was me totally throwing him off. But... I guess I could work on the changes to the right lead to make it easier and then when we get the hang of them... try the hard way!

            Another friend suggested I swap leads over a jump and gradually lower the jump until it's just a pole and then nothing.

            I'll keep trying!! Thanks for the advice! Keep it coming!

            Comment


            • #7
              y'just gotta laugh...

              I'm laughing a bit as I write this, as I know you AND I know Fleck...Fleck has a way to get to the jumps that he understands, it works for him, and I expect - knowing his Appy, OPINIONATED mind, - Fleck is not really invested in switching leads simply because he's 12 and you want him to...

              to quote you: "Hee, hee"
              ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

              Comment


              • #8
                THis is exactly why I think many event riders could benefit from a few lessons with a H/J trainer. For soem reason a lot of event trainers feel that lead changes aren't important, which is anything but true. Coming to a stadium fence on the wrong lead, or cross cantering makes it much more likely that a rail comes down. As I work with riders in both disciplines, and have shown for years in both hunter/jumpers and eventing world, lead changes are something that my riders learn early on in their riding career. It is best to start on a horse that has a pretty decent lead change so you can learn the proper way to balance the horse and ask for the change. I do often use a pole to get the idea into the green horses head. Every discipline has something that is valuable and can be utilized.
                www.shawneeacres.net

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shawneeAcres View Post
                  THis is exactly why I think many event riders could benefit from a few lessons with a H/J trainer. For soem reason a lot of event trainers feel that lead changes aren't important, which is anything but true. Coming to a stadium fence on the wrong lead, or cross cantering makes it much more likely that a rail comes down. As I work with riders in both disciplines, and have shown for years in both hunter/jumpers and eventing world, lead changes are something that my riders learn early on in their riding career. It is best to start on a horse that has a pretty decent lead change so you can learn the proper way to balance the horse and ask for the change. I do often use a pole to get the idea into the green horses head. Every discipline has something that is valuable and can be utilized.
                  I guess I've been fortunate to work with eventers who insist that horses get their changes - and get them straight. My young horse has gorgeous changes .... out in the field. I'll keep your comments in mind though as we do more - habits are difficult to change. Thanks!
                  ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have found that leg yields at the canter are the first step. Then combine them with a half circle back to the track with a few of steps of leg yield before you reach the rail. Then ask for the change. You need to have a fairly balanced counter canter (Prelim test) and sometimes you might have to put your outside leg on his/her hip to initiate the change, but overall that is what has worked best for me. The hunter trainers I ride with all ask for a few steps of leg yield before a change if it's in question.
                    www.canterusa.org

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Second the idea of a good H/J trainer who can teach them well (not lean to the inside and pull). But that being said, I recall spending much of a lesson with Mara Dean one day on getting the right to left change cleanly and correctly, so it's not like a good event coach can't help you - though I do agree that it sometimes tends to be less of a priority. One of the key things to remember is ride STRAIGHT to get your change - if you lean in and dump them on on the inside, they'll fall in and swap in front at best. Ride straight after the fence, balance with your outside rein, and ask at the turn - I think of riding a fairly square turn when I'm working on getting them and keeping my body up and straight. Also, don't shut down the canter - you need to canter forward but not run into them.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You need to be careful- lots of second rate hunter trainers teach changes via run into the fence and turn. My hunter- you step out, step out, ask for new lead- so inside leg, inside leg, (really balance, balance) outside leg. She does like to carry a bit of momentum- she gets a bigger step- not a rush, but likes to have a little pace (it is certainly all relative- her forward is likely slow for an eventer!). With her, the way to mess up is sit crooked, push with seat, or start randomly pulling on reins. She swaps off that new outside leg. Period.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          He might already have his changes if you sit still.
                          You say he has a good counter canter, try this.
                          Canter down the long side, turn down the center or quarter line whichever he can do balanced, hold your outside lead[counter canter] the short diagonal to the corner, in the corner use your inside rein and outside leg as if to push him across the diagonal line[think lateral]
                          That same pattern can be done and put counter-halt-true canter.
                          The use of jumps/groundpoles set anywhere same thing. Come into the jump on a lead, timed with take off use the aids for a lead, land on lead you wanted. You don't always need to change leads with jumps. ex. right-right. With practice you should be able to ask for whichever lead whenever. Jump turn right, but be on the left lead.
                          Above all else try to be a quiet rider and try not to "ask" for the change, the more you help the harder it will be for him.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I like this last piece of advice a lot -- crystallizes what others have said.

                            My young horse is just at this point, too -- we are moving up to Training this weekend (eieieieieei) and his flat work has shown a lot of improvement in self carriage and balance, counter canter is confirmed. But as of yet, no work on changes.

                            I figure we will play with this over the winter and have never consciously ASKED him to change in stadium (which was a phase that made him anxious to begin with, so...). He will often swap if he is cross cantering.

                            I have seen him do clean complete changes with mr asterix aboard (who has no idea what lead he is on and almost always rides out and not in the ring) -- on rare times when they ARE in the ring, pick up "wrong" lead" -- horse will swap before the corner.

                            And then in my lesson the other day, small indoor, we were doing a series of one-stride verticals down the long side, thinking almost exclusively about straightness all the way through. Last time up the side, straight as a pin, I then made a loop back to the left riding as much as I could off eye and leg (not hard to do with a wall looming up)...trainer said...he popped a perfect change, by the way, after the line and before the corner. I was so focused on what I was doing, and the change was so smooth, that I didn't even notice.

                            So, straightness is key!!! don't override it!!
                            The big man -- my lost prince

                            The little brother, now my main man

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              YAY!!! You guys are AWESOME!!!!

                              Thanks so much! I'll definitely play with it some (but not too much if we're screwing it up!) and see if that helps. I think I"m totally leaning!!! I know I tip forward alot too, so there's probably a combo of me tipping forward and leaning and no wonder the poor horse can't get it completely! Straightness is key!! Got it

                              And... I have just started riding with a new coach who is a dressage coach but also coaches some grand prix hunter/jumpers so I'll get him to help me too. I think my next lesson will be dressage with an extra half hour for lead changes at the end

                              I do really like the leg yield and half circle exercises! We'll try that!

                              And...Runforit... hee hee You made me laugh!! Cause YEP!!! I can totally just see him rolling his eyes at me... like jeesh mom! And... on video... granted it was YEARS ago.. I have a tape of him doing his ENTIRE course at Big bear in cross canter. So embarassing!! But if you didn't focus on his legs...he looked quite balance Not sure it's a good thing or a bad thing!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My horse was a lot like yours. And, unlike you, I just ignored it because he could jump so easily out of a counter-canter (or, yes, shamefully, a cross-canter) so I figured it wasn't something I needed to deal with until when/if I needed to learn "real" changes. I'd always heard the worst thing you could do was teach them wrong, and since I didn't know how to teach them, I just avoided/ignored them altogether.

                                Big mistake.

                                What I ended up with was a 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old horse who was *sooooo* comfortable with counter canter (and, ugh, cross canter) that when it did come time to teach him "real" changes, it was nearly impossible. It took four years and some seriously good dressage trainers to FINALLY get him to understand and execute the changes reliably.

                                I think you are very smart to address this now!
                                I evented just for the Halibut.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  and while we are on the subject of dressage trainers vs "hunter" changes...

                                  my other horse was a dressage-only kind of guy, got him when he got so fed up with that life that he stopped participating. He was so wound about changes (dressage, of course) that you couldn't canter across the diagonal without him tensing up.

                                  So we left HIM totally alone about it for a year. I can't tell you how many Training level SJ courses we did countercantering bits and pieces. I just pretended not to notice, and of course he was very confirmed at countercanter, so...

                                  Then one winter we went ahead and went back to changes, strictly in a dressage context. It took a while as he was upset about it, but by the end of the winter he had quite nice changes on the flat.

                                  He then had absolutely NO trouble "translating" those changes into the jump arena, and now has auto changes on course.

                                  So there is no reason you can't put changes on him "the dressage way," I think, if that fits better into your program.
                                  The big man -- my lost prince

                                  The little brother, now my main man

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Come on now! Blue's running around prelim without "changes." Getting a heck of a counter canter. Chalk it up to an appy thing. This winter, we're gonna work on the "dressage" changes, and we'll see how next year goes. Go Appy's!

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Thanks again guys!!

                                      I can't wait to go try it!!! Luckily tonight is my last night of an 89 hour work week, so whooo hooo!! I just hope the tender footedness is gone so we can play

                                      Thanks again!!

                                      And good luck this weekend asterix!!!!!! How exciting

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                                        Second the idea of a good H/J trainer who can teach them well (not lean to the inside and pull). But that being said, I recall spending much of a lesson with Mara Dean one day on getting the right to left change cleanly and correctly, so it's not like a good event coach can't help you - though I do agree that it sometimes tends to be less of a priority. One of the key things to remember is ride STRAIGHT to get your change - if you lean in and dump them on on the inside, they'll fall in and swap in front at best. Ride straight after the fence, balance with your outside rein, and ask at the turn - I think of riding a fairly square turn when I'm working on getting them and keeping my body up and straight. Also, don't shut down the canter - you need to canter forward but not run into them.
                                        What spot said. 90% of the problem is pulling. You MUST be going forward. The other 10% is leaning in and dumping them on the inside.

                                        Comment

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