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How to teach flying changes to the horse who can counter canter all day long... ??

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  • How to teach flying changes to the horse who can counter canter all day long... ??

    Hi there,

    One of my horses has finally sort of come into his own and stopped being a totally anxious spaz within the last year or so. Yay for us. I won't go into details on that but suffice it to say it was a long hard road.

    He is finally at the point where I can really start asking him for things he doesn't understand without him having a major Type A personality meltdown.

    One thing that has been missing from our repertoire is the flying change. This horse is very athletic, sound and flexible. I have no reason to believe he cannot do it. I don't recall ever seeing him do it at liberty but he also rarely canters for more than a few strides in turnout. He prefers to sleep. Occasionally he goes for a little yahoo around but it tends to be one circle or in a straight line, etc.

    Anyways... he is ridiculously good at the counter canter. He can counter canter all day long. I've tried a few of the text book methods to teach him changes and he just doesn't seem to get what I am trying to get him to do. We can do simple changes until the cows come home.

    Any ideas?

    Admittedly, I have only taught a couple horses to do changes as typically my training endeavors have been more of the starting under saddle variety where I don't get to the point of changes or retraining OTTB who usually already know how to change lead. The ones I have taught though were pretty easy... so I'm hoping you guys can give me some suggestions to work on this season
    2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

  • #2
    How prompt is he to your leg? How is his lateral work?

    Changing leads is all about having control of that hind end, in my experience. You need to be able to move them over and then execute a canter depart from the canter. I would suggest really making your aids for the canter depart quite clear - and practice picking up the desired lead all over the ring (not simply on the rail or across the diagonal) until you can reliably execute the desired departure anytime you want. Then simply ask for the new lead using the same aid while you are cantering on the other one. If he misses, do a prompt downward transition, remind him about obedience to your leg by moving that hind end over, and canter again.
    **********
    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
    -PaulaEdwina

    Comment


    • #3
      Teach the counter canter (when you ask for it!) first.

      What has worked for me in the past is just working on aids. Go down the long side and ask him to pick up right lead, halt. Left lead, halt. Right lead, halt. You get the picture

      Once he has figured out your aids for asking for each lead **clearly** then work on simple changes until your blue in the face. Left lead, across the center, trot (2-3 strides) Right lead. Repeat a zillion times.

      Go back to the first excercise, and combine the two. It's really important you always use the same aids when picking up the canter. These two excercises have always worked for me when teaching LC's.

      I don't like to use the pole method because, while it *can* teach the rider timing to *ask* for the aids, it's an added visual aid for the horse and (IME) they won't necessarily get the change without the pole. If you need to use it for your benefit of when to ask for the change, thats fine.

      Good luck! Lead changes can be frustrating, but it's most rewarding when they actually get them.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Lucassb -

        He is pretty prompt! Sometimes if I've been walking on a loose rein for a while he'll take a second to perk up, but if we are in "work mode" he is pretty attentive.

        We can pick up our canter on whichever lead I want from anywhere in the ring during flatwork. Where I run into problems is in the middle of a course, if I get slightly disorganized, try for a simple change and then I think I am not clear enough with him and he'll sometimes go back to the original incorrect lead. Happily he can even counter canter very balanced on a roll back type turn.

        The issue I just described is definitely my fault, as if I am organized and riding well, he will usually land on the correct lead! So obviously I need to work on that some but I also feel it would benefit us both if we could do a nice swap instead of mucking about with a simple change because his trot leaves a lot to be desired (short strided and can be tense) and he is much more calm and comfortable mentally in his canter.

        I will definitely work on what you've suggested. The problem I have is that when I have tried what you are talking about before, as in asking him for the new lead from the canter, etc. He will change his bend, but stay on the other lead! If I keep asking with (new) outside leg, he'll move away from it laterally... stays on the same lead. Almost like leg yielding, with correct bend at the counter canter. Ugh! LOL He just plain does not get it! LOL I'm sure it is my shortcoming, but he's stuck with me so we have to work with what we've got!

        Thanks for your suggestions, I will work on our canter departs more and keep trying!

        sar2008 -

        He will pick up whichever lead I ask him for no matter where we are (if I do it properly!) as I mentioned above sometimes I get disorganized a bit during courses and I do not ask properly. But when we are doing flatwork I can get whichever lead I want, no matter direction or location in the ring, etc.

        I have tried the repetitive simple change figure eight you describe... we can do figure eights with simple changes very well. I have also tried the pole thing. All to no avail.

        Thanks for your response. I will keep trying!

        He has had the winter off and we are just getting back to work, so we are not ready physically to work on this stuff quite yet but when we are I am going to work on the suggestions you both have given me. I was in a cast in the fall and my indoor is pretty small, so the idea of getting back to work in the middle of January in my little indoor wasn't appealing! He's coming back to work great though, he remembers everything we were last working on, we are just both out of shape!
        2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

        Comment


        • #5
          It's hard to say without watching you ride but I would bet that the problem lies in your lateral work. Lateral work can be confusing- there is a lot going on. It's not just about where his body is but also how he is balancing and where the weight is. And don't feel bad! Good lateral work is challenging and can stump a lot of riders especially when bringing along a greenie.

          Here is one of my favorite exercises for teaching a horse the lead change. Canter a figure eight but make it cut diagonally across the arena (like an infinity sign rather than a proper figure eight). As you approach the center come down to the walk- keep the horse in front of your leg! Half pass at the walk towards the inside of the new direction. Make sure you are doing the half pass correctly- horse should be bent towards the inside (towards the direction you are half passing) and the body should stay straight while moving diagonally. After a 4-5 strides of halfpassing at the walk, pick up new lead.

          So in essence, if you start tracking left, you will canter on left lead, when you get almost to the center break to walk, half pass right, then pick up right lead. As the horse gets stronger, shorten the transitions (only walk 2 strides, only do 2 strides halfpassing, then right into the canter). Once you are ready for flying changes you should be able to use almost the same cues- canter, half halt, change bend and balance (similar to half pass), flying change, new lead! I've noticed that horse will also tend to rush less with using this method and if your horse ever starts to over do it (move too much laterally), it's VERY easy to fix- just use less leg.

          If you are unsure if you are doing your lateral work correctly then have a qualified trainer watch. Eyes on the grounds can be tremendous help with making sure all body parts are aligned properly.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            hnterjmprpro45,

            I'm a bit confused. If I start off tracking left, cantering left lead, and then begin going across the diagonal, walk and half pass right... I'll then be heading back towards the long side I just left.. with a right bend, which will be a counter bend if I maintain it once I get back to the rail... and I'll still be tracking left... ??

            If I get to the walking part and then half pass left (moving leftwards with a left bend) I'll be bent the wrong way when I get to the rail also, but will have changed direction. Is that what you mean? Maybe I am using the half pass direction terms wrong. Do I change the bend after finishing the half pass, and then ask for the new lead?

            My horse leg yields at walk and trot very well, does shoulder in and haunches in fairly well (we have not worked on it as much), and turns on the haunches and forehand as well. We have never attempted half pass, I didn't think it was necessary for us at this point. After he gets back into condition I'll try working on it. He is pretty smart and tries really hard, which is why this lead change thing is just so weird, I think he just truly does not understand what the point is, LOL.

            I'm hoping to be able to get some lessons this year. We haven't been able to have regular lessons in a few years because there is a real lack of advanced trainers in my area. A trainer I often work with when he is available was seriously injured last spring, so I was unable to get any lessons last year. Despite this we made a lot of headway last year. It is looking like I'll be able to get some lessons this year since the trainer is healed up, but he is also a very busy person so I work alone a lot.
            Last edited by VCT; Mar. 16, 2011, 05:32 PM. Reason: fixed typo
            2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

            Comment


            • #7
              I think this is a very helpful article on lead changes.

              http://www.southernstates.com/articl...adchanges.aspx

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm a bit confused. If I start off tracking left, cantering left lead, and then begin going across the diagonal, walk and half pass right... I'll then be heading back towards the long side I just left.. with a right bend, which will be a counter bend if I maintain it once I get back to the rail... and I'll still be tracking left... ??
                No, you DON'T head "back topwards the long side." You continue on the diagonal.

                You start off track left, cantering on the left lead.

                You turn across the diagonal. You are aiming a little to the left of the far corner. You half pass right for a FEW strides- but without turning. You are still roughly on the diagonal, now aiming straight for the far corner. You can pick up the right lead and continue to the far corner where you pick up track right.
                Janet

                chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Janet View Post
                  You turn across the diagonal. You are aiming a little to the left of the far corner. You half pass right for a FEW strides- but without turning. You are still roughly on the diagonal, now aiming straight for the far corner. You can pick up the right lead and continue to the far corner where you pick up track right.
                  Gotcha, thanks!
                  2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Janet View Post
                    You start off track left, cantering on the left lead.

                    You turn across the diagonal. You are aiming a little to the left of the far corner. You half pass right for a FEW strides- but without turning. You are still roughly on the diagonal, now aiming straight for the far corner. You can pick up the right lead and continue to the far corner where you pick up track right.
                    If you are half passing right, you have to be on the right lead, moving laterally right, and bent around the right leg. Do you mean leg yield right while on the left lead?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      First, do not ever let him counter canter a turn. If he's comfortable on it(some horses aren't, and you can use that to your advantage) then all you are teaching him is that it's okay to be on the wrong lead. You can install the counter canter, if needed for the future, AFTER you have a lead change.
                      Second, the horse has to be straight to do a lead change. You need to change his balance without losing the straightness. If you teach the horse to do the change by moving sideways, you will spend the rest of your life trying to keep him straight from the jump to the rail. Do your figure eight, picking either a corner or the middle of the short side rail, which ever works best in your ring, and make sure you pick the "correct" corner, ie one with a straight line approach, and not the one where the horses bulge towards the barn or gate or fall in because of the scary thing outside the ring. Canter straight all the way to the fence, simple change with as few steps of trot as possible and pick up the new lead at the fence. You want to shift your weight on the approach to the fence so that your weight is in your new outside stirrup, but look up and keep the horse straight. Repeat until you feel the horse shift his balance when you shift your weight. When you feel him starting to set up for the change in that way, then turn at the fence instead of trotting, and use the same cues you use to pick up the canter, in the same spot.
                      And sometimes it really is easier to teach changes as part of the course, since turn direction becomes second nature. You can do it the same way, just using the fence after each jump or line as your point for picking up the new lead.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks CBoylen, I will definitely try that first, as it sounds the simplest to accomplish for us. As for not counter cantering around turns, I will not do it anymore, but we have done in the past. Not because I want to but because I have flubbed the simple change on course, and instead of rushing to try another one I've just maintained the counter canter since we are good at it and to maintain his calmness... if I were to rush to try to fit another simple one in he might get very anxious. He is a bit of a worrier, but he has been improving in leaps and bounds, especially in the last year!

                        When we have screwed up like that it is definitely my fault - horse can get anxious at shows which makes him a lot more complicated to ride and nerves can get the better of me. He's basically a good natured horse but a handful of Prelim-Advanced eventers have called him "challenging." He tends to behave quieter and better for me even though I am not as skilled a rider as the others. We have grown a very deep bond at this point. I know we have a long way to go and whatnot, but I am just looking to have fun at my local hunt and saddle club and keep improving as much as we can. I have another horse who is a better mover, more talented and has a better brain who I am bringing along and he is my baby... but the original horse this post is about is my soulmate.

                        Thanks so much for all the advice everyone. I will definitely be trying some of these things out as we get fitter this spring

                        I will keep checking back if anyone has anything to add!
                        2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CBoylen View Post
                          First, do not ever let him counter canter a turn. If he's comfortable on it(some horses aren't, and you can use that to your advantage) then all you are teaching him is that it's okay to be on the wrong lead. You can install the counter canter, if needed for the future, AFTER you have a lead change.
                          Second, the horse has to be straight to do a lead change. You need to change his balance without losing the straightness. If you teach the horse to do the change by moving sideways, you will spend the rest of your life trying to keep him straight from the jump to the rail. Do your figure eight, picking either a corner or the middle of the short side rail, which ever works best in your ring, and make sure you pick the "correct" corner, ie one with a straight line approach, and not the one where the horses bulge towards the barn or gate or fall in because of the scary thing outside the ring. Canter straight all the way to the fence, simple change with as few steps of trot as possible and pick up the new lead at the fence. You want to shift your weight on the approach to the fence so that your weight is in your new outside stirrup, but look up and keep the horse straight. Repeat until you feel the horse shift his balance when you shift your weight. When you feel him starting to set up for the change in that way, then turn at the fence instead of trotting, and use the same cues you use to pick up the canter, in the same spot.
                          And sometimes it really is easier to teach changes as part of the course, since turn direction becomes second nature. You can do it the same way, just using the fence after each jump or line as your point for picking up the new lead.
                          What Chanda said. If needs be you can add a pole at the corner, but I've found the above method to be the most effective.

                          I usually don't bother "teaching" them changes until AFTER they are jumping courses, as most of them all of a sudden seem to have a "light bulb" moment and start doing their changes where they are supposed to on course. Only on those that don't figure it out themselves do I start having to really teach them what to do.
                          Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            SidesaddleRider, I've been waiting for the light bulb, LOL nothing yet!

                            The horse has been jumping courses for quite a while. I had someone training/riding him for me at first. Unfortunately she made him sort of a nervous wreck. Eventually he bucked her off one day and she came after me for money even though she'd signed a release, had been paid to ride and had been training him for well over a year.

                            Anyways, after that I took over riding him and the first year we struggled alot (I am admittedly way less skilled) but we did some jumping. He was a bit nutty. After that I went back to basics with him and it took a long time (over two years) but he has calmed down a lot. Last year I was able to show in some local hunter classes (for mileage - he isn't a hunter) and we did some dressage schooling shows, mini trials, combined tests, etc. Hunter Pace series (he got reserve champ in the series!), etc.

                            Anyways, this horse is entirely comfortable on the counter canter. I don't think he'll ever figure out to change on his own because he is so good at counter canter that I don't think he'd ever feel a need to change lead. I want to teach it to him so we can have a better chance of staying organized on course.

                            Thanks again!
                            2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Sorry that was confusing- I can explain it much better in person I swear but yes, Janet has the idea.

                              For the half pass portion, I only do it at the walk but that same feel should carry over a little when you are actually switching leads at the canter.

                              The biggest thing I see people do wrong is 1) speed up or turn sharply to get the change or 2) turn their torso into a pretzel to try to throw the horse into it. Although the exercise I recommended is difficult and maybe not the norm, I feel it addresses the weaknesses in horse in rider that cause those mistakes. I've personally had a lot of success with this method with my own horses and riders but find what works best for you.

                              Eta- when done properly you shouldn't have problems with the horse scooting sideways- in fact I've found that horses that are strong laterally (evenly on both sides of course) are the easiest to keep straight. But of course you need to be aware of how much leg you need and don't over do it.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Another idea

                                When you jump a single fence, can you get him to LAND on whatever lead you want? If you can't do this reliably, work on it until you can. Basically you give the aids for the canter lead you want in the air-looking in the direction of the lead that you want. Then, gradually make the fence smaller until it is just a pole on the ground between the standards. Then take the pole away and keep the standards. If he doesn't get it, put the pole or fence back, then try again. Once he gets it move the standards to where you want the changes. Then take them away. This my sound a little weird but it will make more sense to the horse.

                                I am always really careful not to get the horse upset about the lead change. I try to find away to make it fun, then it will become more reliable.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  He doesn't get upset (anymore). He has learned that I will not reprimand him unless he commits a "unforgivable sin". He just keeps cantering on the wrong lead. If I ask again more strongly he's like, "Yes, I can correct bend!" ... while cantering on the same lead (counter canter). If I ask again more strongly he goes, "Oh! Move my butt over?? Sure!"... while bent correctly, while counter cantering. There is no scooting.

                                  We can do a simple change where the trot part is only about 1 step! But when I try to just do a flying change.. I get what I said above. I'll keep trying.

                                  Thank you everyone for all your input! I will definitely be references all this when we are ready to try again!
                                  2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    My trainer firmly beleives in not "teaching" changes, but letting the horses figure it our for themselves. I was still jumping around 1.15 meter courses and trotting changes with my mare!

                                    First he teaches the horse to jump and land on the lead you are asking for. This can be doen at the trot or canter, and eventually work your way up so you figure eight over a single jump changing leads in the air each time. Once you horse is good with this, stat working the change over a pole. Then place the pole in stragegic places (as mentioned, after a line heading into a corner) Then eventually take the pole away.

                                    I am sure you already know, but never drill lead changes, especially with a sensitive horse like yours. Maybe practie these exercises once or twice a week or else you risk creating lead change anxiety. If the do it right the first time, stop. It is all much easier said than done!

                                    It probably took over a year before my very smart and athletic mare got it, but she did. Though I did just trot a change behind in the high A/O's at Thermal. Oops.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Thanks for your input....

                                      This horse has been jumping for 4 years, although summer of 2009 I barely did any jumping at all, as I took the year to just go back to basics with him to get him to relax some. It paid off in spades. He can now do lots of exercises without getting upset.

                                      The first year he was being jumped by his trainer, he completed and placed in two recognized Novice horse trials with her, and did some jumper classes, etc.

                                      The second year I rode him and believe me - I was not worried about changes at all as we were going mach 5 through lines where it felt like there was no actual jump - just picking up the landing gear and putting it down. Yeah, kinda scary. Obviously, we did not show over fences. I went to a couple local shows and went in the pleasure classes just for mileage.

                                      The third year I owned him, as I said.. I went back to basics with him.. and last year we did a lot of little stuff. 2' - 2'6" hunter courses, 2 ft. mini trial, combined tests, etc. He has calmed down a lot.

                                      I just don't think he'll ever do a lead change left to his own devices. He is really good at the counter canter, its not a strain for him at all. I know it's really hard for some horses, it's very very easy for him. He's weird.

                                      But thank you very much for your suggestion.. I will definitely keep this thread to refer to in case one method doesn't work I will try another one!! Thank you all very much!!
                                      2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I'm personally not a big fan of using a pole as it can teach a horse to change front to back- not always, but it can in many cases. If you think about it, you are asking a horse to land on the new lead over the pole which would mean the front switches first. Obviously a front to back change is better than breaking to the trot to change while on course but is definitely not ideal.

                                        OP I can sympathize, my first horse I ever owned was horrible with lead changes too! Good luck!

                                        Comment

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