What is a good way to teach a horse the flying change?

Asked by Ben du Toit

Before you start with teaching the flying changes, it’s important that you teach your horse the basics, namely relaxation, rhythm, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection. Before teaching the flying change, ask yourself the following:

  • Is the quality of the canter good (always maintaining the three-beat rhythm)?
  • Is the horse straight in the canter?
  • Is the rider able to control the tempo?
  • Does the horse have self-carriage?
  • Can the horse do the simple lead changes correctly and anywhere in the arena?
  • Is the horse active and does he react to the aids?

In the beginning it is desirable to always ride the flying changes at the same place in the arena; for example, on the diagonal. Once the horse knows the concept of changing lead, you can try the flying changes at other places in the arena. 

If you are changing from the left lead to the right lead, make sure to have a balanced, relaxed and forward left lead canter before you reach the diagonal. Keep the horse straight and maintain the rhythm when you give the aids for the right lead canter. The right moment for the aids is during suspension when the forelegs are just about to reach the ground. When making a flying change to the right, always keep the horse balanced on the left rein. The new inside leg – right leg in this case – will move on the girth to maintain bend and impulsion. The new outside leg – left leg in this case – comes behind the girth to initiate the flying change.

If the horse changes lead, always reward him so he starts to understand the concept and trusts the rider. 

Answered by dressage trainer, Crista Bruine de Bruin

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