07-15-2012, 05:32 PM
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I would avoid using a pole to teach the change, if at all possible because it will only teach her to "swap leads" and encourages the horse to always be one stride, or more, late behind, which is not a flying lead change!
I would also recommend you not try to lessen the amount of trot strides in your simple change through the trot as this only encourages the horse to run and be on the forehand. Always aim for 3-4 trot strides between leads, and make it more if you have to in order to keep the horse balanced and responsive to your aids. The flying change is just another canter stride, which will not be of good quality if the canter is not of good quality!
You are on the right track doing simple changes through the trot and working on picking up both true canter and counter canter. The only thing I would say to work towards prior to asking for the change is working on true simple changes (ie. Through the walk) and walk-canter-walk, walk-counter canter-walk transitions. The same is true in these transitions as for the trot-canter transitions, focus on balance, not how fast you can get from one lead to the next. It might take 6-7 walk strides to get her walking correctly before you can canter again.
Another good exercise is to do a walk pirouette and then canter out on the opposite lead. Ie do a pirouette turning to the right, and then immediately canter on the left lead between 90-180 degrees through the turn. The change in bend, and canter transition are both good for suppleness and obedience to the aids.
Eventually, you will need to start schooling the changes. Do this only after your horse is "handy" with the above exercises. Depending on your horse's tendencies in the change will determine where you place them in your schooling. Some horses benefit from a figure 8 with 10m half circles on either end and going straight between for no more than 15m. Some horses like a half 15m circle, head back to the track in about a 20m line and then ask for the change. Another thing to consider is walk breaks. When schooling I always like to walk - pick up the canter - turn and do one change and then walk again. No more than 30 consecutive strides of canter at once. It helps to keep the mind fresh and prevents too much running about or fighting. It helps also to break it up in a ride. Ie warm up, ask for 3-4 changes, go back to a bit of trot work or other, ask for more changes and finish with something relaxing.
ETA - on your time frame, I found with my horse it was about 6 months from starting to getting to the point where I had an obedient change in easy places, about half the time. It was about 18 months of schooling before I had a consistent change with no bucking/bolting/together front and behind and where ever I wanted to put it, 90% of the time. At now 3 years of having changes I have no issues with 2 tempis. He was tough with the changes though! I would put that on the long end of "normal".
It takes time, but doing it correctly the first time is always rewarding as you will have a consistent, reliable, flying change and not just a "lead swap" where the horse is liable to end up cross cantering or not changing at all.