Professional advice from Joanna Fisher – International Grand Prix Dressage Rider and Trainer: What age should I teach my horse flying changes?
This is a very broad spectrum question and before delving deep into it, I would prefer to generally answer – whenever you want to!
There is absolutely no set rule as to when/if/why anything can be trained. If you or your horse can’t do it then quite simply it won’t happen.
But, there are ways to get to this point and that’s what I will discuss.
Flying changes are where the horse changes from right canter lead to left canter lead and vice versa without breaking out of the canter. Sounds easy, but it does require balance and a lot of persistence!
I generally wouldn’t ask for this before my horse is able to canter balanced on both reins. Balanced in canter means the horse is able to go from a collected to medium canter and back to collection without resistance or loss of balance. I also think it’s very important that the horse can make the transition from walk to canter cleanly. This transition alone will help dramatically with the changes.
Counter canter is a useful balancing training aid, but don’t over do that if you want to do changes because the horse will be confused that you are changing your mind over which leg he should be on. Counter canter can be drilled after changes have been taught.
I hope this helps. There is no harm playing with changes on a young horse, I personally think horses enjoy doing new things! As always keep it simple, keep your aids clear and enjoy teaching and building a partnership with your horse!
Image credit: Hilary Rock
Joanna has written a collection of children’s books based on her horses over the years.
It has been published by award winning Candy Jar books and currently available in Waterstones and being read in schools. Click here to link to her website: www.stablegossip.com