A flying lead change is an advanced riding skill that is essential for equestrians who participate in dressage, show jumping, or eventing. This maneuver requires the horse to change leads while cantering without breaking stride. Once mastered, it can greatly improve the smoothness and efficiency of your performance in the arena. Here are three ways to execute a flying lead change:
1. The Simple Change:
The first method to ease into flying lead changes is mastering a simple change. This technique requires the rider to transition their horse from a canter to a trot for one or two strides before switching back to a canter on the new lead.
To achieve this, sit deep in the saddle and use half-halts to balance your horse while preparing for the transition. Switch your leg aids and visualize your desired new lead as you continue riding into the trot. Apply pressure from your new inside leg at the girth to cue your horse to pick up the new canter lead and maintain balance.
2. The Counter-Canter Method:
The counter-canter method involves maintaining control over your horse’s balance and stride while it moves through an irregular-shaped figure-eight pattern in the arena.
Starting on a nice, balanced canter on one lead, ride your horse into a large loop before progressing into another, opposite loop with the same lead still in place. This might feel slightly awkward at first, as your horse is now on an incorrect lead for half of the figure-eight path but maintaining counter-canter promotes balance and muscular development.
As you exit the second loop, cue for a new flying lead change in a straight section where both loops intersect by shifting your weight slightly towards the new inside seat bone, applying pressure with your new outside leg behind the girth, and focusing on maintaining rhythm.
3. The Leg-Yield Method:
This technique challenges both you and your horse by incorporating lateral movement to encourage a more balanced and responsive lead change. Begin by cantering down the long side of the arena, maintaining a straight and even pace.
Gradually leg-yield your horse towards the centerline while maintaining your initial lead. As you approach the centerline, cue for a flying change by shifting your weight towards the new inside seat bone, slipping your new outside leg back slightly behind the girth, and easing pressure from your horse’s neck.
Remember that flying lead changes require practice, patience, and collaboration between both horse and rider. Make sure to praise your horse’s progress toward mastering this advanced riding skill. With time and dedication, you’ll be executing fluid flying lead changes with ease in no time!
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