How To Do Flying Changes

Learn how to do a flying lead change in dressage and set your horse up for success when teaching them.

Preparation is everything when it comes to riding good flying changes and when beginning to teach your horse this new movement, preparation is key too.

In her online masterclass program, Vanessa Way runs us through how she likes to set her horses up for success. Using simple exercises to balance the horse and create straightness. She runs through what you might struggle with and obstacles that may pop up along the way.

how to do flying changes

Why train flying canter lead changes?

In the official ESNZ New Zealand dressage tests 2019 we start to see flying changes appear from advanced medium level.

At this level they are introduced as one single change and it is the building block for teaching horses tempi changes later on.

What does a good clean lead change look like?

Before teaching a horse a new movement it is important for you to know as a rider what the movement is and how it should ideally look.

According to the FEI Dressage handbook, the flying change is performed in one stride with the front and hind legs changing at the same moment.

The change of the leading front and hind leg takes place during the moment of suspension. The aids should be precise and unobtrusive.

Aims of the flying changes:

  • To show the reaction, sensitivity and obedience of the horse to the aids for the change of leg.

Essentials of the flying changes:

  • The quality of the canter before, during and after.
  • The fluency of the movement and the uphill tendency
  • The forward-tendency and groundcover
  • The calmness, straightness and balance
  • The maintainance fo the rhythm and tempo throughout

Common mistakes in flying changes

The biggest mistakes often shown in these transitions is the horse not doing clean changes, meaning the horse may not change the back legs at the same time as the front.

When teaching your horse flying changes the horse remains in canter, but changes the canter lead during a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground.

When practising your flying changes at home, it’s important to teach the horse to do clean changes and this comes from good engagement, straightness and the overall quality of the canter.

Preparing for flying changes

Before trying to teach a flying change the horse must be able to produce a good simple change of lead and perform good canter walk canter transitions.

The downward transition should be a clear transition to the walk, with no trot steps. This is achieved by shortening the canter before the transition and bring the canter back to a slower speed.

If the horses canter is too big and too fast it will lose balance, drop on the forehand and collapse down to the walk.

The upwards transition in you walk canter should be quick off the leg without being rushed or coming above the bit.

Before introducing the flying change

Before introducing flying changes to your horse, be sure you can first adjust your horses canter. Can you do medium canter and collected canter.

Know that you bring the canter speed back to a walk speed and shorten the strides of the canter as well as lengthen the canter off a light aid too.

Next develop the counter canter until the horse can comfortably maintain it without tension and test the horse’s balance by adjusting pace and tempo around the arena.

Work on straightness in collected canter and be sure the horse has the strength to maintain this.

Once you have checked off the above, you are then ready to introduce changes.

Mastering your flying changes with Vanessa Way

In the video on flying changes in Vanessa Way’s series ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements’ she runs you through step by step how she introduces flying changes, obstacles to overcome and how to set your horse up for success.

She breaks it all down step by step on how to ride the movement and the feeling you should have at each stage of the horses development.

Here is a video snippet of Vanessa discussing flying changes in her program.

We hope you find this useful. Get access to the full video plus over 4 hours of Vanessa teaching with her online training program ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements.’

Want to learn more? Check out these articles.

How to train counter canter

Young horse training

Centre lines and halts

Learn how to improve your canter walk transitions

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