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How to Introduce the Flying Change

The flying change - a exciting step in the dressage training journey!

Is your horse ready to start learning how to do a flying change? Let's check...

  • Does he understand his canter transitions (trot/canter) and canter leads? When you ask for left lead canter, does he easily and promptly strike off in left lead canter? Or does he shuffle, come above the bit momentarily, speed up the trot for a few strides before he canters, or sometimes get the wrong lead? If the transition from trot to canter isn't clear and done easily, your horse is not ready to think about flying changes.

  • Can he do a clear transition from walk to canter? Does he stay round and strike right off to canter when you ask from the walk? Or does he trot a few steps, brace, or come above the bit in the transition? If your horse doesn't understand the walk/canter transition or if he isn't strong enough to do this transition well, he is probably not strong enough to do a good flying change. For exercises to improve the canter and walk/canter transitions, take a look at this post!

  • Does he understand the counter canter? He doesn't need to be perfectly confirmed in the counter canter, but he should understand that sometimes we change directions without changing leads. He should be able to counter canter for a short period and maintain balance and keep the quality of the canter.

  • Can you leg yield in the canter? Can you leg yield both towards the rail AND away from the rail?

Yes, you and your horse can do these things? Great! Let's talk flying changes!

One of my favorite ways to introduce the flying change is by using a leg yield.

  • Develop the canter on a 20 meter circle at A or C.

  • As you finish the circle and leave the corner of the arena to go down the long side, ask your horse to counter flex.

  • Leg yield across the diagonal. Keep the "jump" in the canter.

  • As you finish the leg yield on the opposite rail line, use your new inside leg to push the horse into the new outside rein. When he is into that new outside rein and off the new inside leg, ask for the change.

Check out the video below to see this exercise!

Unfamiliar with the idea of leg yielding across the diagonal? Take a look at the diagram below. For this exercise, when your horse is in the No.4 position, you would ask for the change.

Trouble shooting...

  • Losing clarity in the canter during the leg yield? Losing the "jump"? Without that "jump" in the canter, your horse won't be able to jump through and change leads. If he loses clarity in the canter during the leg yield, stop the leg yield and circle out. You can circle in the direction of the true lead or in the direction of the counter canter, whichever way makes the most sense for where you are in the arena. Half halt as much as needed to rebalance the canter and then start your leg yield again.

  • No reaction when you ask for the change? Keep the counter canter on a 20 meter circle. Ask again. "Back your aid up" with your whip or with an additional kick. Ask until you get a reaction. You may not get the reaction you want, but any reaction (even a bad reaction) is better than no reaction. Once you get a reaction, come back to walk or trot, re-establish your true canter and repeat the exercise. It may take your horse a few tries to find the correct reaction!

Give it a try and let me know what you think! Happy riding!

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