Saturday, September 1, 2012

Flying Changes or the lack of


This week I've been focusing on dressage work and teaching Annie how to do simple changes.   I want to put flying changes on her, or at the very least a smooth simple change for jumping courses.   I've done a lot of thinking and talking with hunter friends about flying changes and the lack of them in the eventing world.  My hunter friends don't understand why more eventers don't change.  My eventer friends say they're waiting for when they need it in dressage.

Horses that do hunters have their flying changes as soon as they can canter without falling over and hunter riders don't think it's a big important long to do about teaching them.  If these horses eventually become equitation horses they have no issues learning how to counter canter, so I don't think that teaching changes before you teach counter canter is a big issue as long as you do it right.

Hunter changes should be forward, even, and straight.  Hauling a horse into a change in a corner will earn you less points then a change on a straight line but just like anything there are good hunter changes and bad ones.  The biggest difference I've seen between dressage and hunter changes is that hunter people want changes to be smooth and part of the course, and dressage people want them to be obvious and have more jump in them.  In fact, dressage horses turned into hunters need work on taking the jump out of their changes because it makes the round less flowy (that's an official word).


My personal opinion is that many eventers simply don't know how to put a flying change on a horse, myself included.  It's simply not an eventing skill set because it doesn't take off points in a round.  I think that a good simple change is just fine, but I've seen plenty of ugly simple changes or none at all. If you can hold the counter canter more power to you.   Everything I've ridden with changes has come with them pre installed.  Nikki the Grey and Snorty had auto changes.  We once changed 8 times down a 5 stride bending line (figure that one out) because I couldn't make up my damn mind.  The hunters I rode just rolled their eyes at me and changed leads.

My belief is that I'm never going to get to the dressage level where I need a counter canter and neither are a large majority of ammy eventers but I have more of a need for it over fences. 

So my plan is to polish our simple changes through the trot and if she feels like she's ready to do a flying I'll ask.  If not it's no big deal.

What I'm doing is coming across the diagonal.  Go down to an orderly forward and soft trot, leg yield over onto the new bend, ask for the new lead, canter off.  In theory you are waiting until you can do a smooth and quiet simple change using your legs and as little rein as possible so you don't make them crooked.  When you feel the horse shift his weight in the canter in anticipation for the leg yield, change of bend, new lead, that is when you ask for the change.

I can SEE the moment when the flying change is hiding inside the canter from the ground while helping another rider, but FEELING it in the saddle is another thing!

Right now we get awful excited about our simple changes and pretzel across the diagonal with angry faces because less trotting leads to more cantering so we're a long way off!  So stay tuned for an exciting new development 12 years in our future!

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