Key Ingredients for Flying Changes

Check list of things to have in place before starting to teach flying changes.

Before I start teaching my young horses flying changes, I have a clear “check list” of exercises that I like my horses to be confident in and have a thorough understanding of.

Can my horse confidently perform both trot and walk to canter transitions, both on a circle or on a straight line?

Can they pick up true and counter canter easily?

The application of this aid will be the same aid that I will be applying when indicating my flying change signal.

By using this challenging exercise, picking up counter canter using the long sides and circle, it is a great indication of the clarity that my horse is truly understanding of my aids.

Flying changes for dressage

To get the perfect timing of the half halt, of which I will be indicating the flying change, I make sure my canter to walk is clear and direct. This is the moment of suspension, when all the horse’s legs are in the air and off the ground.

That’s the precise and only time to apply the aid to the flying change. If I have a pupil new to changes, I will get them to count the strides and moment of suspension into the walk.

I need to make sure my horse shows an efficient balance with enough collection to perform the changes without losing confidence. To check this, I make sure my horses can easily perform counter canter on circles and turns.

I then add into my counter canter changes of flexion to prepare the horse for the change of position required in the flying changes.

By doing these changes frequently he doesn’t anticipate the flying changes with every flexion change. Ownership of the preparation leading into flying changes will help keep your horse more confident and stop anticipation and potential confusion.

Another exercise to keep my horses clear and obedient to my aids is to incorporate canter leg yield to and away from the rail. This will help keep the horse clear in his understanding to remain on that chosen canter lead, but also will be used throughout training to Grand Prix and Zig Zags.

I also need to be able to ride a confident shoulder fore to traverse, moulding my horse around my legs. The traverse position will help clarify that the horse is to remain in that canter lead, with my horse learning not to change until signalled by my change of leg position for the actual flying change to come.

Half passes will also be a regular part of my training.

The final part of my checklist is being able to ride a shoulder fore and then changing the flexion to create a shallow reverse. This should be done by not changing my hips or legs, only my shoulders and hand position.

I then repeat it back to shoulder fore. This exercise indicates to the horse the new position, but they are again not to change until I change my leg position and apply the aid. This is my favorite lead up exercise.

Then once my above is totally understood and in control – the fun begins!

Here is a wee snippet from Vanessa’s training at home in Season one of ‘Master your Dressage movements’, showing how to introduce canter walk on your way to teaching flying changes.

Get access to the full program here  Master your Dressage Movements

Want to learn more? Check out these articles.

Accuracy in PSG movements

PSG competition warm up

Preliminary level competition mastery

How to do flying changes

Learn how to improve your canter walk transitions

Check out all of Vanessa’s online programs here

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