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Flying lead Change?
well im question is simple.. how do you teach a horse to do a flying lead change:)? Is it a good thing to know? or can they be okay without it:)?
I'm working on teaching both of my horses to get their flying lead changes. Depending on the horses ability to learn, the time to get it varies. I've been working with my horses on getting them responsive to the leg, working on the right leads and asking for counter cantering, switching back and forth. For most horses, flying lead changes come naturally, however some horses I've seen aren't coordinated enough to do them.
Practice changing leads by going down to a trot and eventually dropping the amount of strides in between the lead changes. Don't rush the lead changes though, it's more important that the horse is balanced through the changes. You can also ride on a figure 8 and place a pole where the 2 circles meet and changing directions/leads over the pole. Just ask for a lead swap when the horse crosses over it.
You can't rush through a flying lead change, it will teach your horse that it's acceptable to speed up every time you do a flying. I've rode a horse that became really sucked back when asked for a flying because her owner practiced flyings too often.
For lower level showing it's okay to go without flying lead changes. But when you get to a more advanced level, it's imperative that your horse knows how to do them. For example, if you were a show jumper on a 2'6 course with a horse that didn't have flying lead changes, at that level you would most likely wouldn't place well. It takes a valuable seconds to pull your horse down to the trot and then go back up to the canter.
In reining patterns, the horses are required to do flying lead changes. If you're in a western pleasure class and your horse blows your lead, it only takes a few seconds to switch it through a flying where it'll take more time to correct it through a simple lead change.
My coach has a horse whose flying lead changes feel just like a step, you can hardly even tell the horse switched his lead. For other horses, not so much.
It's also really important that you don't rush the learning process. The horse will learn when it does, and trying to force it into a change or trying to force it do the change before it's ready could really hurt the horse. Also, make sure your horse swaps everything because some horses only swap the front lead.
I would advise you to get a trainer's help, even just taking a couple of lessons to work on flying lead changes would really help and avoid injury.
Everyone teaches them a little different but this is how I teach them:
The horse has to be maneuverable in order to do a good hind end first change. I have to be able to move the poll, shoulders, ribcage and hips where I want softly. I work on pushing the rib where I want it, the hind end where I want it, two tracking, side passing, pivoting on both the front and hind. If I have the horse supple at the walk then I do things at the trot(except for the pivots obviously).
I will trot a lot of elliptical shaped circles(think shaped like a lima bean) practicing the counterbend. In the middle asking for a counterbend and pushing him into the center of your circle then returning to your circle. Then "D" shaped circles counterbending on the straight away setting him up for the change without asking basically. At the lope I will do the same and also work on a counter canter. The counter canter is also helpful for them not to associate the change of direction with the lead change. He learns to be soft and not anticipate. When he is able to do things comfortably then I can ask for the actual change. For example changing from the right to left, I lift the left shoulder and tip the nose slightly to the left, ask him to move his rib over to the right with my left leg at the cinch just like how I was asking for the counterbend, only now I ask for the change by putting my right leg on behind the cinch to ask for the hip to come to the left and releasing the left leg so he can come through with the change.
I have found teaching this way gives you something to back to when they start anticipating coming through the middle. You can just go back to counter bending or counter cantering so they relax and wait for you to cue them. Also with the counter canter you can change anywhere on the circle rather than through the middle of the pen.
I have always been told that a flying lead change needs to be taught while the horse is moving STRAIGHT. Never teach it in the middle of a figure 8. Patterns come after the horse already knows how to do the flying lead change.
As cowchick said, you've got to have a well-trained horse with good control before doing flying lead changes.
This is what my reining trainer showed me to do with my horse Red. (explaining as if you are in an arena)
Start by loping the perimeter of the arena in, let's say, the right lead (clockwise). When your horse is soft and listening, stay in the right lead while you cut from one corner of the arena to the other, across the diagonal. When you reach the other corner you are going to ask your horse to go around the arena to the left (counter clockwise) but you are going to force your horse to stay in the right lead by purposefully using your left leg to push their hip out. Also make sure you are using two hands on the reins to keep their nose slightly tipped to the outside to keep a slight bend (counter bend) in the whole body. Go around the arena once or twice like this. Yes, it is going to be uncomfortable for you and the horse; that's the point. When you have gone around the arena once or twice, and you are just starting one of the long straightaways, you will ask you horse to break down to a trot for a couple strides, then cue him for the correct left lead. You can then repeat this drill so that you'll be doing the opposite directions with the opposite leads.
Eventually, you'll start asking for less and less strides at the trot when you make the switch. Eventually, you'll only take one stride at the trot and then pop up to the correct lead. And then............ you'll eventually ask for zero trot and your horse should do the flying change. And eventually, you will work from directing your horse with two hands, to using only a one hand neck rein.
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