Hey lately I have been trying really hard to do lead changes on my appaloosa Jazz, but I just cannot figure out how to, my trainer explains everything but I just cant get it through my head, any tips?

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Thank you slc2... very well said! I have often tried to explain to friends that dressage is more than just flat work (or a different style of dress and tack)... it is a quite separate discipline.
There is a "window" in the training of a horse where flying changes can be learned easily, and trained to occur with different aids. Miss that window and changes become a greater issue.

I have a horse who started volunteering flying changes (full, correct, back to front, all at once flying changes) during his jumping work. When I sat up, and balanced him after a jump, if it was needed he'd ping neatly onto the other lead. In fact if he managed to do the hunter change-the-front-end-first thing, he'd have to change the front end back to the wrong lead and do a full change properly - he couldn't catch up with his hind end. He still prefers to do it that way on the rare occasions he gets unbalanced and swaps the front alone. New coaches always stand with a "did he really just do what I think he did?" expression after seeing him do it the first time.

As he got more consistent with his changes I determined that I needed to attach aids to the change before they became "auto changes" because we do dressage too and I could see difficulties coming along when we were required to do simple changes, counter canter, and on-demand flying changes. So I did just that and now he can "auto" change when jumping (though really it's me rebalancing that cues him), and still do all the dressage stuff in canter, including on-demand flying changes from an entirely different seat on my part, and a different self carriage on his part. He has had a reliable flying change since training level - though the quality of that change improves as his self carriage does. Certainly he would "volunteer" flying changes at times when something was difficult - in the same way that a horse might go faster or bulge a shoulder to avoid the difficulty of the exercise, because it's easier than doing the exercise. Such instances are rare now, and almost invariably my fault for slipping in my aids somewhere and opening the door for him to do a flying change.

So while he does flying changes from two distinct seats/aids I did teach both during that one "window" of opportunity in his development.
I do figure 8's with my 4 year old. I ask him to trot for a few strides in the middle and then pick up his other lead, gradually decreasing the trot strides. Hope this helps :)
I just wanted to mention that I find dressage exercises very useful while training my three day horse and my hunter. These include flying changes I mentioned earlier. There are many ways to achieve the same results, each way suitable for different horse and rider combos. I personally would not discount dressage methods because I have a hunter, the information is often valuable and transferable.
You are right, Michelle. But Hunter, jumper, 3 day and dressage are from the same root as far as riding goes.
The finished horse is ridden on contact.

The finished western horse is ridden on a loose rein. While contact is used here and there to achieve certain goals, it is never sustained for long periods of time.

things that work really well for horses who are allowed to use the reins for guidance and balance, don't work as good for horses that ultimately have to learn to do EVERYTHING on their own balance.
LOL... Thanks for trying to explain "Dressage Collection" in one-short-easy-to-read post.

I'm sorry I dinged you by trying to generalize the whole concept.

But the fact of the matter remains (like you eloquently described yourself)
Collection is achieved in many different ways.
What is good in dressage will get you dinged severely in western (or icelandic, or gaited, or...)
Flying changes for a dressage horse or a hunter should be taught differently than flying changes for a reiner, or trail, or western riding horse.
LOL... way to go sic!!
Yah using doing Dressage excises helps Jazz a lot
I'm a western rider/trainer. I compete a little bit, but mostly I just enjoy riding young horses and teaching them their job as useful mounts.

this discussion is in an english forum. So what I say may not be relevant for you english riders.
But there are lots of western folks who ask about flying changes and they'll probly come across this discussion too.

So here are my experiences from a western view point

I try to get a horse swapping leads as soon as he'll give it.
Within the first month of riding time. Right after he's learned to cope w/ my weight and balance at the lope.
I hunt him across an open spot, switch directions and see if he'll swap leads.
If he's successful, he mostly doesn't even realize he's done that.
I don't make a big deal out of it, just let him do it.
I try to get him to do that here and there as time and place allows.
This get's him to use the step sequence.
Later, when I actually train the change, he'll not be intimidated by the step sequence.

Next, a lot of training steps later...
I'll ask him again in a regular training setting.
He's gotta know how to pick up both leads easily from the walk and stop, and he's gotta know how to change bends very very well.
I'll lope a large circle one way, pick up speed towards the end of the circle, change directions across the middle and hope he swaps, as he starts the opposite circle.
If I've done my homework just right, they usually swap just fine.
If he doesnt' swap, I'll pick up speed and wait for him to change.
If he still doesn't change, I'll take the circle smaller and try to get him to lift that outside shoulder into it.
If he still doesn't change, I go back and do more homework. I won't try it again, till I got more training in place.

If he swaps, then I use that figure eight at speed to let him practice.
I'll spend a couple of months just letting him swap on his own balance, on a loose rein, at quite a bit of speed (not quite running, but not in a collected working canter either).

Then I'll start training a slow change.
I'll make sure I got rock solid hind end control. I'll also make sure he can change laterals from one stride to another.
Then I'll ride a large lope circle and during the circle bend his shoulder out, then bend his hindend in. Back and forth, staying w/ the correct laterals to keep him in the correct lead.
As I head for a spot where I want to change, I'll bend that hindend in to the lead I'm in, then bend that hindend out to the lead I want next. Most will change on that. Some will only change on the back and I actually gotta lift their shoulders into the next lead too.

From there, flying changes are always a change in laterals at the lope.
And from there, soon they become changes in bend.
Weeeellll... I can't really say. I sorta figured things out as I went. Got good scores and thought I was right on top of things. Got bad scores and went back to the drawing board.
But this seems to work really good for me.
If I try to ask other trainers about it, they'll tell me "Counter Canter... Lots and lots of counter canter". But I've never had any luck w/ counter canter. Can't make it work for me. Not for flying changes anyways.

Seeins you asked that Q... I'm thinking... That was stupid. I can't really speak for the western world. I don't do half the things they do in western training. And some of the things that I've figured out over the years, leave other trainers scratching their heads.

Like my lope departures. I can get them rock solid on any... ANY... horse. With ANY rider.
Lots of folks have seen them. But nobody has ever picked up on them.
Guess I must be doing them wrong, huh? lol.
LOL... Yeah, those dang dressage tests. I run into those myself. Had a couple that were natural dressage ponies and said... ok... I can do this, yoooo-bettcha!

First one I got to 2nd level w/ and stalled. That nasty extended trot, you know.
But he sold well. The horse was really, really broke. I'd used him in the feedyard and he was bomb proof. Some lady got a very talented dressage horse w/ cowboy background.

Second one cleared the Xtrot hurdle just fine (he could mayyyybe compete at L3)... but money issues and the fact that he Hated dressage stopped that one. He's still standing in my pasture. 13, semi retired. He gets to work now and again when a new cowboy comes to the yard and needs a horse that will show him the ropes. LOL. It's kinda funny to see this super educated horse plunk around the yard and keep some wannabe cowboy safe.

My third and last attempt now lives in TX, where I leased him to a dressage lady. She has a trainer and a barn and education and can do some of the things right that need done right.
Natural talent (the horse) and good feel (from the rider) only get you so far. That particular horse is soooo talented, that I was depressed over my lack of knowledge.
Got a vid of him... This was after a 3 yr break, then 30 days of cowboying in the yard. (OMGosh, just realized How looong that horse's story is! LOL)
But he's happy now, living a life of luxury in a barn (complete w/ shavings and blankets), doing what he loves.
LOL... you outta see him get a cow out. Long dressage legs flinging all over the place at perfect cowhorse timing. He's amazing!
Oh, and I did get Blackie's changes w/ the counter canter. I'd learned my lesson early on w/ GreyHorse. Follow the training outline the tests lay out for you. LOL.
But Blackie is one of those horses where all you have to do is think about what you want to do and Voila, no sweat, here it is. I've even showed off for the cowboys a few times and did canter pirouttes on him.

Anyhoo... I think Blackie is the one that convinced me I shouldn't be dabbling in dressage. You either commit to Dressage or you don't. I'd have to change my riding style completely. I can't afford to do that. My truck payment gets made by Pookie and his owner, who just wants a nice trail horse. And I'm the master at turning Pookie into not only the best loved, but also the best riding horse in the county.

That's actually a lot harder than what it sounds. I call them "joy stick horses". Put both reins in one hand and point your hand where you want your horse to go.
My job is to make sure that Pony builds habits of following that one rein cue w/ his whole body, and doesn't just fling his head around.
In other words, he's gotta know to collect and lengthen his frame by following that one rein cue, he's gotta know how to look at a situation and be prepared for what the rider will probly need from him.

Just like bad riders build habits in their horses that leave them flinging their heads and pushing against the bit, I build habits in those same horses that leave them dropping their heads and putting their hindend under them.
That little skill makes my truck payment every month. LOL.

As far as my own horses... I like to compete them a little here and there.
There is a club called International Performance Horse Development Association. IPHDA.com. They've taken the reining horse training and broken it down in levels, like the dressage levels. I did pretty well there last year. Won a saddle and a whole bunch of cash. Got a pretty nice horse out of the deal too.
And there's that same thing again... If you don't dot your I's and cross your T's just right, you flunk out at certain levels.

Thank goodness, some of my off the wall training stuff stands up in their program.
Had to learn some new stuff too, tho. Halfpasses for a western horse, go figure.

Let's see what do I do that others don't...
Lope departures are the biggest one.
Another one is turnbacks against the fence. And boy, did I miss that one. I didn't do those for a while, seeins my current mentor was scratching his head on them. But I've gone back to those, seeins I can live w/out them.
Got a vid here on BM about those.

If you take the time to watch Blackie, lemme know if the vid loads ok for you. It hung up when I tried to play it, and I might have to upload it again.
Aw... Thank you Sic. High praise from someone that's obviously been there and done some of it.

But most of the credit goes to the horse. Blackie is one of those once in a life time horses I stumbled across as I was training for others.
I got the horse after he'd bucked his owner off and put him in the hospital.
The whole time I was riding him, I thought to myself "This is a waste of a great english horse." But I taught him the joy stick stuff, and sent him back to his owner, less the bucking.
A couple of yrs later, he was for sale. He never really made the grade as a ranch horse.
I jumped on it.

And tried my luck ... one-more-time... w/ a dressage horse.

I'd learned a few things by then, and got a little further.
But I still stalled out over the whole contact, sit ramrod straight, legs wrapped clear around and back, buy a dressage saddle so he can move, take the time off and haul to dressage shows w/ One horse issue. Oh... don't forget... learn a whole bunch more to keep up w/ the talent under me.

Like I said earlier in this post... You don't wanna mix disciplines.
It don't work in the long run. You end up doing neither of them well.
If you really want to learn dressage, pursue it, want it, spend money and time on it.
If you really want to ride your horse western, learn that... stay w/ the very very good and valid training from western trainers, spend money on it, spend time on it, hunt it, learn it and pursue it some more.
That's what makes great riders... No matter what the discipline.

Yes, us western riders use contact. But in the long run, we get away from it. A horse that needs contact will flunk out in any judged western class. So don't dabble in dressage, where so much depends on contact and how you use it.
A dressage horse that ain't rode on contact will flunk out (trust me, I know). None of the movements look right to the judges, if they are ridden w/ loose reins.


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