The flying change of leg

It is one of the most important step in horse training. Aims, preparation and execution.

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To change the leading leg in the canter, the horse can do so through walk and/or trot or making a flying change. In a simple change, he carries out a transition to the walk/trot and restarts into the canter with the other leg leading. The flying change of leg is the next step. It takes place during a period of suspension in the canter when both fore and hind legs should change together, the leading hind leg initiating the change.
​The horse must remain light, calm and straight; mantain impulsion, the same rhythm and balance; achieve a noticeable and clean jump from one leading leg to the other.
The flying change should be attempted when the horse’s hind quarters are strong, when the horse has the ability to collect at the canter and to maintain impulsion, when it’s balanced and straight, it remains ‘on the bit’ during his work and the canter strides are in a regular rhythm.

The preparation to the flying change should be made doing simple changes at short intervals on alternate legs. When these are well performed with a degree of collection, the horse remaining straight and ‘on the aids’, the trainer should ask for alternately true and counter-canter to the walk.
To make the first flying change as easy as possible for the horse, he is usually cantered across the school on a diagonal in a well-balanced, well-collected canter, and asked to change at the end of the diagonal. If the change has been correctly made, the horse must be rewarded with a walk on a long rein and caressed. If the change was not correct or not made at all, the rider can may try once more and, if again it’s a failure, he should return to the preparatory exercises before retrying. It’s essential that the change should not be late behind: i.e. the change is made first with the forelegs and then a stride or more later with the hind legs.
Unless the rider can feel such an error form the saddle, he should have an assistant on the ground to tell him whether the change has been correctly performed.
Rider’s aids:
- The rider must first of all check his position
- He makes a half-halt to improve impulsion and balance
- Just before the leading leg comes to the ground he changes his aids from position left to position right without collapsing his hips
- He pushes his own weight on the stirrups leaving the horse’s back free
- It’s importante that the horse is kept straight and that the rider brings the new inside leg forward and the new outside leg back at the same moment.
Although most trainer teach their horses flying changes at the end of the diagonal, some horses find other positions easier. If the horse doesn’t change correctly at the end of the diagonal, other positions can be tried.
​Also, when continuing the training it is vital to ensure that a horse doesn’t anticipate and start to change of his own accord. Therefore, ask for the change from different positions, i.e. from a 10 or 15 meters half circle ask for the change when just about to return to the track.
Most trainer teach their horses flying changes changing direction (from left to right and and vice versa) by jumping a pole on the ground.