Schooling Plans

Lesson Plan 5 Improving The Flying Change.

The aim of this schooling plan is to work through improving firstly the canter and then the flying changes. This a general plan and will need to be tweaked to the individual horse and rider. Always take time and only work this type of plan when your horse is suitably ready!

The flying change is when the horse changes directly from one canter lead to the other. In other words it could be said that the flying change is a transition to canter ridden from canter. I feel that thinking about it this way helps to break down what is required and helps the rider build up a mental image of what is needed simply to ride a canter transition, but instead of this being from trot or walk you ride it from canter. Therefore there are two main qualities to initially look at the quality of the canter and therefore the better the moment of suspension and the second being the evenness of both canters.

Schooling plan:

1. Walk stretch, big walk and really draping him down whilst actively stepping forwards. Then have a period of stretching the horse down in trot. Looking for looseness, relaxation and stretch with active forward steps.
{Options: include canter stretch depending on level and balance of horse}

2. Pick up an active forwards working trot going large around the arena and on the long side ride trot to walk, 1 stride of walk forwards to halt, a couple of steps of rein back, forwards to walk for 1 stride and then trot. Repeat this a couple of times, including one on the diagonal line for a change of rein and then in the other direction. This is to encourage the horse to be responsive to the aids, light to the hand, crisp off the leg and starting to become engaged.

Have a walk break.

3. Walk and trot are symmetrical; canter is not and so we need an increased lateral suppleness to help the canter. So the next part of this lesson plan is to ride in trot through the short side past A, say on the right rein and as you start the long side from K leg yield from the track to the centre line away from your left leg, from the centre line ride a half 10m circle left to the track and return down the long side in left shoulder-in. Ride through the short side past A and then repeat from F in the other direction. Repeat a couple of times in each direction.

Have a trot stretch and then a walk break.

4. Have a warm up canter both ways, looking for suppleness, acceptance of the aids, balance and forward activity. Then walk large say on the right rein. As you start the long side at each marker ride a walk to canter transition as you start a 10m circle (first one from K) and as you return to the wall canter to walk transition. Walk to the next marker and repeat, walk to canter straight onto a 10m circle and canter to walk as you return to the track. Do this at each marker down the long side. Through the short side walk stretch and an active walk across the short diagonal M to E, pick up the medium walk and repeat the exercise starting from F down the next long side.

The walk to canter requires acceptance of the aids, smart reaction to the leg, strength through the body and back to give the transition without using the neck as a lever to pull him through it. The canter down to walk requires a degree of collection, response to the aids and suppleness through his body to allow for the engagement required.

The horse should now be supple, balanced, responsive and active in the session and ready to be asked for the flying change.

5. Ride simple changes around the outside track, riding from true canter to walk and then walk to counter canter. Then again from counter canter to walk and walk to true canter. When you feel the horse is attentive and balanced then from the counter canter ask for a flying change to the true canter. Repeat in the other direction.

When you have achieved one in either direction ride a trot stretch and finish for that day.

In the initial stages of being asked to perform flying changes the horse may well be a little exuberant through the change. This must never be harshly penalised as the horse will then start to fear making the change itself. When the first change is given the horse should be walked and praised as this is quite a strenuous exercise for him. Therefore only ask for one or two changes and leave it for that day. Also do not ask for changes every time you ride until the horse is more established. The quality of the canter after the change should be looked at with the same criteria as that of the canter leading up to the change.

What can go wrong and why:

1. Horse rushes forwards without changing as a result of the request from the rider:
Correction: The quality of the canter and the response to the aids is in question. The horse needs to be made calm and then run through some simple changes to regain clarity of the aids.

2. Horse changes the front legs without the corresponding change of sequence of the hind legs:
Correction: There could be a number of reasons for this which include tension, lack of straightness through the body and lack of engagement as well as rider error i.e. mis-timing of the aids, too much use of the hand. Check the quality of the canter for straightness and activity with some transitions from working canter to medium canter and return as this will help to ensure that the horse is in front of your leg. Make sure that when you ask for the change you change the flexion and are soft with the new inside rein when you aid for the change.

3. The horse makes a change but pushes his croup up against the rider:
Correction: This denotes a lack of suppleness and engagement and therefore changes should not be asked for until the quality of the canter has been improved. Again you could utilise the simple change work to encourage the sitting behind and also make sure the head and neck are not dropping low ride the canter actively forwards with the poll up. However this fault may not be correctable in a one off session so do take time.