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October 01-21-2008 03:57 PM

Lead Changes
Intense frustration has caused me to join so I can finally get some help. Congratulations, all of you have just gained a new student. :D

My trainer taught me the very basics of lead changing, and then quit. At one time, my horses had some sort of understanding of it, but then it was lost to both them and me. Basically, I know nothing about lead changes! One of my horses, Silas, changes leads on his own, but it takes some time and is quite uncomfortable. He trips and stumbles, then comes to the right lead. I may also add that he's a recent ex-race horse, and almost any leg pressure just makes him want to go faster. My other horse, Candy, is a big blundering giant. She's not very agile, and doesn't really do well in the arena, so most of the time I ride her outside. If I change directions, she just continues to go on the wrong lead. And with both, I'll slow them down and ask for the other lead, and about 60% of the time get what I ask for. It's miserable, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong, and nobody is around to help me. So can you guys help?

So how could I get the right lead the first time around? When I don't, it's honestly like my horses just aren't listening, at all. Candy is just shy of being "dead to the aids" and Silas pretty much wets himself when he feels any pressure at all.

How do I ask for a lead change? And what are some exercises that can help me perfect it?

And finally, for longer down the road, when I know what I'm doing, what about a flying lead change? How is that different from a normal one, and what are the basics of starting that?

Thanks guys, and any help at all is appreciated!

Harlee rides horses 01-21-2008 09:14 PM

Well I can't exactly say this will work for you but I did a ton of figure eights in an arena and then they HAVE to do the change or they will run into the fence. Also I set up two barrels and then cantered my horse around them and he picked it up, but make sure whenever you do that you give them the cue you want to use for a lead change.

upnover 01-22-2008 02:54 PM

So are you asking how to do a flying lead change or how to train a horse to do one?

First it's important to know the natural footfalls of the canter for the sake of timing. First beat is outside hind, second is inside hind/outside fore, third is inside fore, then there is a suspension phase. I'm sure you know that but I just like to cover all bases. :)

The basics for doing a flying change on a horse that already knows how to do it... Start off on a lead (ie: left) and cut across the diagonal. As you are cutting across, close your new inside leg and push him over with it (in this example your right leg). This helps him turn more balanced, keeps him straight, and pushes his inside hind leg over which sets him up to change the lead. Make sure he's straight and balanced and your cue to canter on the new lead (left leg) will be on the third beat of the canter (when the horse's inside fore is on the ground) so that way during the suspension phase he can switch his hind legs and land with the new outside hind. Think to yourself 'inside leg, inside leg, inside leg, OUT"

So, to teach your horse to do this he needs to have a solid foundation. It sounds like Silas is starting to get an idea. -he knows he's unbalanced on the wrong lead and wants to do something but isn't sure what to do about it. The first thing I'd do with both of them is to make sure that they know how to really respond to your leg. Turns on the forehand are great because they learn to move away from your leg and get their butt over. Leg yields are wonderful because they also teach them to move away from your leg and get their inside hind underneath them. Sounds like maybe Candy needs to learn that leg means she needs to do something? And Silas needs to learn that leg can mean other things then just go faster?

I agree that figure 8s are a great way to introduce changes. My vet (who's a professional reiner) suggested this exercise to me with a horse I was working with. Start off by cantering one direction and as you go across the middle, go to a trot, leg yield over a couple of steps, pick up the new direction. same thing over and over again. After a while (this is gradual, could be days later) put less and less number of trot steps in the middle. Then get to a point where you can canter, halt in the middle, and pick up the new lead with no trot steps at all. Then when they're great at that ask for the change instead of halting and they should start doing it. Horses are smart and start to anticipate your next move. Sometimes is bad but for this exercise it's great because they know they're about to change directions and start to 'think ahead'. Again, they have to really know what your leg means to be able to canter, halt, canter again on all the correct leads! Good luck!

upnover 01-22-2008 03:08 PM

Sorry, I didn't read your post that clearly! I thought you were asking just about flying changes.

(let's just see how long I can write this time!)

A simple change is going from one canter lead to another, trotting in the middle. A flying change is when you go straight from one lead to the other without trotting.
As far as simple changes I'd work a lot on transitions making them as clean and responsive as possible, and again working on exercises that that teach your horse to be more responsive to your aids. You want your aids to be like a button. You push the button that says trot, push the button that says canter, etc. You want to avoid kick kick kick kicking the horse and driving it forward until it falls into a canter or trot. When you ask for a particular lead, close your inside leg first to get your horse's inside hind leg to step underneath itself a little, and then the next step he can start the canter with his outside hind (first footfall of the canter). When you go from the canter to a trot it needs to be on the 2nd beat of the canter. The second beat of the canter is the horse's 'diagonal pair' or inside hind/outside front. -which is the same exact footfall in a trot step! So if you ask during the 2nd beat of the canter, the next beat can be a trot. This is kind of technical stuff and man does it take practice to get a feel of it! But timing is crucial for clean transitions. I rode for YEARS before anyone told me that knowing the footfalls of the horse were more important than just knowing horse trivia! :D

Grendel 01-22-2008 04:41 PM

Flying lead changes is just a more fancy way of saying lead change.

Now, i suggest that before you even try teaching your horses to change leads, you should get them listening to your legs, and go through some dressage.

What disipline do you do now?

Well, since you asked to teach horses how, here you go:

start teaching them on a figure eight (going across the diagonals to create a figure eight). Start with just trotting the figure eight about 10 times, when you go across, have them change their bend (if you don't know bends, etc. you shouldn't be trying to get your horse to do a lead change) before they go into their next corner, etc. When you feel that they are responding to you, move on to the canter. Now, what you want to do, is canter and when you go across the diagonal, trot in the middle, change their bend, and right away ask for the next lead. So lets say that you are on the left lead and your left leg is closer to the girth and your right leg is behind the girth. When you go across the diagonal, have them trot in the middle, shift your leg position (and your weight) so that your right leg is closer to the girth, and your left leg is behind the girth and ask for the canter. Do this about 10 times for a few days. They should learn that when you shift your weight and legs, they need to change their lead.

If you do dressage with your horses, I would highly recommend that you go through 2nd level dressage and teach them Counter Canter before trying to teach them lead changes.

October 01-22-2008 07:09 PM

Wow, thanks guys! I was going to go out today, but seeing it's a high of 21, I'm sitting here waiting. Until tomorrow (high of 30-something!)

And Grendel, I do hunter/jumper. I use to Event on a grand ol' horse that was a perfect confidence booster, so I did a little dressage, but never knew anything about it. I think it would help Candy get a lighter carriage.

Thanks guys, that helped a lot!

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