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Hunter lead changes
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What has been your experience in this discipline.
Ok, I've shown hunters, at "A" hunter shows and this is honestly what happens.
Mom feeds horse, grooms horse, cleans stall, tacks up horse and hands it to the trainer, then goes and wakes up the kid, gets the kid fed and ready, they go down to the ring, kid hops on horse, does 1-2 warm up fences and goes in the ring. Comes out complaining that the horse didn't do whatever, then gets mom's credit card and goes shopping at tack tent while mom takes the horse back to the stall.
The horse is just inherently supposed to "know" when you want it to change or not. And if it does something wrong you yell and hit it with your bat, and then make your trainer get on to "fix" your bad horse.
I don't do hunters, wont do hunters - but interesting topic.
Anebel - I see that far too often. Sad, but true.
i've ridden mainly hunters my entire riding life and trained under several trainers, some better then others. (some significantly better) when i first started jumping i rode with a trainer for THREE years and never had any clue what even a leg yield was! we learned how to be pretty passengers and that was it. thankfully i've ridden with some trainers who actually have a clue.... but yes, trainers like what Anabel described definitely exist, although not all are like that!
Basically after every diagonal line the horse knows it's going to change directions and changes its lead for you whether you ask for it or not. they generally don't just swap their lead whenever, it's mainly just in the corners when they know they're going to change directions. some students just sit there and look pretty and don't ask, i think mainly because their trainers don't teach them anything else. i like to teach my kids how to balance their horses and ask for one properly, but have the 'back up' that in the show ring the horse will get it right if the kid doesn't. But I also like to buy made horses that just do their job for my beginner kids to teach them how to ride before getting anything remotely green.
i do find that most horses that don't get a clean change will change in the front before changing in the back, so yes, they will be on the cross canter. this is heavily penalized in the show ring, which is why auto changes are so dang important to people and why those horses are so much more expensive. despite popular belief :-) hunter judges do not just look at a horse and say, ooh, that's pretty, i pick that one! judging is numerical and there is a ranking of what is considered desirable. the best is for a horse to land on the correct lead after every jump. next is to do a flying change. next is a skip change (changes in the front, and then in the back, the longer the horse is on the cross canter, the more they are penalized). next (and these are heavily penalized) is a balanced counter canter. next is to swap in the front and just cross canter around without ever getting the full change (or waiting several strides to get it). the worst is to break gait to a trot and do a simple change. breaking gait automatically brings your score down from a 100 to 60, regardless of how perfect the rest of your round may have been.
i know dressage riders teach their horses how to change leads much later in their career so there's quite a bit more balancing/lateral work before it's crucial that they know it. they have the 'luxury' of not needing one until later. the second a hunter goes into the show ring (whether it's with a cross bars kid or the horse's baby green year) a lead change is necessary so people rush their horses into learning them.
Anebel- I'd like to see anyone try that with my trainer! If she catches anyone making someone else do their work just because they are lazy, they get to clean everyone's stall, plus their own. It's the same no matter how much their horse costs. As for just "looking pretty" I completely disagree. hunters may not be the hardest disipline, but it isn't just sitting there!
I've shown in Equitation up until this year, and I have recently switched to a Hunter/Jumper barn. I haven't been to Hunters shows yet but am learning the Hunter style of riding... how I'm taught is to check the lead after every jump (except lines) and then ask for the lead change if they didn't get the correct one over the jump. There's nothing "auto" about it really, besides the horse's natural instincts of which lead he should be on. I mean, the horse does know that he needs to be on the inside lead, or else he'll be asked to change it. Sometimes the horse makes a mistake and he'll pick up the wrong lead... that's when the rider comes in and gives him what he needs to change: a balanced canter and a cue.
I don't think it's fair at all to say that most people at hunter shows are the type that anebel is describing. There are people like that in every discipline, not specifically hunters. And I wouldn't say it's the majority either.
upnover - As far as I am concerned, I would not show a horse over fences until it was able to collect to the point of being able to do canter-walk transitions easily. Therefore, the horse should accept changes really easily and the problem of changes goes right out the window, unless the horse has little talent for them.
My horse had changes by the time it was his 5th birthday. And not because they were ever schooled or drilled, but just because he was balanced and properly collected and trained.
Just to put hunters in kind of the perspective I see it in. Dressage you show all three gaits, with variances in each gait, lateral movements and many transitions and movements at very specific locations. You are also generally being judged for between 3-8 minutes. In hunters over fences you show one gait, sometimes two, extremely occasionally 3, only have to adjust the pace a minor amount to fit in the lines, except for some better designed handy hunter courses, show no collected gaits or lateral movements. Generally judging time is between 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
It is very difficult for a dressage rider to sit through a dressage test and do nothing even at training level, but in an o/f class, if the horse is decently trained, it is possible to cruise through a course and do basically nothing.
My DRESSAGE horse is trained to FEI. Does changes on command with very little effort. Now I have a very nice rider on him that was doing jumper and hunter classes and she had no idea how to get the changes. I taught her how to ask but when she went into the ring in an over fence class they were often missed. He would not cross canter as that would be unbalanced but even on some sharp turns it would just become a counter canter (something he is also well versed in).
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