Thursday, July 16, 2009

Et voila

Another great ride on Tucker last night. We worked on our lead changes because the smaller outdoor ring had been cleared of jumps and we had plenty of space to play around in. I never school him on his changes because in the past he got so worried about them, but now they are getting to be no big deal so I figured I'd take advantage of it. I felt like at the last horse show the problem I was having was I really don't know what works to ask him for the change. I had been going along figuring if he does it himself, great, and if not we'll trot a step. But now I'm getting to the point where everything else is falling into place and we need him to fix this one last little piece. Which means I need to figure out how to ask.

So, I trotted around and warmed up, and he was a little lazy because I forgot my spurs but otherwise good. We cantered a little and then I just started playing around with changes of direction. Sometimes a simple change, sometimes I'd ask for the lead change, all the while patting him and telling him he's good after each one whether he got it or not. He stayed relaxed and let me play around with it until I figured it out. He's getting to be very patient with his mother.

Slight side note: The DQ's may be groaning right now that us Hunter Princesses don't know how to ask for a proper lead change, nor do we want one, and they have a point. The acceptable flying change in dressage is a lot different than the little swap we want at the end of the ring in the hunters which should be barely perceptible. As a result, a lot of hunters just fall to the inside and drop their shoulder to get the change (and hey, half those horses are on their forehand to begin with anyway). Luckily, I have a horse with such a big step that I can't let him get on his forehand, and he really needs to be balanced to get his change, which is a ride I like better. In all candor, however, I readily admit that a dressage judge would probably be horrified. But, that's why I'm a hunter princess.

Anyway, in my experience, nothing is more unique to each horse than the lead change. Every horse I have shown requires a completely different set of aids to get it. I don't know if it's how they are taught, how they learn, how they are built, or how they carry themselves, but it seems that each is unique. For Tucker, I learned by trial and error that when he lands from the fence a little more forward and I have to feel both reins and sit to start collecting him again, that's when I get those perfect lead changes. So I tried last night to figure out what works and what doesn't. Some of these should have been fairly obvious to me, but that's why they call it the adult amateurs. It's sometimes kind of a slow learning curve.

So, first I found that coming across the diagonal in a slow collected canter doesn't work. Collected might be okay, but it has to be forward, otherwise he seems to completely forget he has a hind end that needs changing too. I assume this is because he doesn't have enough impulsion and he is probably not actually collected but rather faking me out and cantering with his hind half about a mile behind us. This is a common ploy, for which I often fall. To Tucker's delight, I am sure.

Then (in my unfailing tendency to overcorrect) I learned that running across the diagonal doesn't work either. He rushes through it, pulls the reins out of my hands, and misses the hind again. I assume this is because he is just too disorganized.

So, then I got the right pace. A nice forward canter continuing through the turn, not accelerating across the diagonal of the ring. But, we still missed it. I was trying to kick with my outside leg for the change to motivate the hind end. That wasn't working. My timing is probably off and it's throwing Tucker off. So next time, just support with the outside leg to keep him straight but don't kick.

The next time (mind you, there are lots of circles, transitions, etc. in between all these attempts), I didn't kick, but once again, we still missed it. I noticed my center of gravity had fallen forward and thought I should try fixing that. I also noticed I had lost the contact on my inside rein and he was just kind of leaning on my outside hand.

Then we finally got two perfect changes in a row. I sat down, closed my leg, thought about keeping my shoulders back, kept sending him forward into my hand, felt both reins, and voila: lead change.

For my next trick, ladies and gentlemen, I will do that five times in a row after landing from each line. . . .


  1. Very nice! A lead change is a lead change, whether in dressage or hunters - they both require true implusion from behind. If you can refine it so you're cuing when the new outside hind is leaving the ground (part of the diagonal front/hind pair on the old lead) that will improve your timing and precision and make it easier for him to comply - otherwise he'll have to complete another canter stride before changed from behind - that's why so many people get a change only in front at first - because the change isn't timed with the canter stride and doesn't start behind.

  2. haha...glad you mentioned the difference in lead changes...because they are NOT the same thing at all in the 2 disciplines. The good thing is you don't have to do them until 3rd level after you do all your counter canter work at 2nd. You and Tucker, when you come out and do a dressage show for fun, are not exactly at 3rd level yet :P. I am so happy that Tucker is not getting stressed about the changes! Yay! I think it is great you are working on them yourself!

  3. Oooh, counter canter is on our list of things to master. I should take him to a dressage show. Although my ego might be too fragile to handle the judge's scoffing at my idea of flat work!

    As for me working on the changes myself... I have to credit Alicia there. She has gotten him to the point where I actually *can* work on them in a productive manner. It took about a year, but he seems to have forgotten his former "training."


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