Yesterday I got a text message that a ride slot had opened up with Linda Zang over in Upperville. I had ridden with Linda once before up in Maryland and had a good ride, but the opportunity to have another lesson had not presented itself. Since the time available was 7:45am, and that would put me at work just an hour late (I normally work 10-6), I said “I’ll be there!”.
I went straight to work, no time to blog, but it was an great lesson, so I had to tell one of my work friends (WF below) all about it.
Me: Hi! I had a great lesson this morning! Woot!
I think I had a breakthrough, those are rare unicorns.
What kind of breakthrough?
Me: the timing of my aids for flying changes.
WF: flying!? Horses don’t fly.
Pegasusesesus’s do, but not horses!
Almost everything you do in riding can be slowed down and learned at a slower gait, but the flying change, gravity is a bitch, and it has to be done in the moment of suspension…
so, you know when you skip, you have one leg forward, then the other leg…well, a canter lead is like the horse always going with the right legs forward or “leading”, then you “change” and he’d be going with the left legs forward “leading”. We call those leads.
When you change from one to the other by going through another gait, it is a simple change of lead.
When you ask the horse to change, while cantering, he has to be coordinated enough to do it while in mid air, the suspension phase of the canter stride.
Most horses do this out in the field, but add in a rider, and it is harder.
So it is a “flying” change because the horse is changing while he is briefly “flying” through the air in that moment of suspension. Getting a change over a jump is easy, because you have a much longer period of air time.
I’ve been struggling, for years with the right timing of when to ask my horse to change. If you don’t ask at the right time, the horse ends up late behind (or in front) because once one of those legs is on the ground, he cannot change…and then it takes more strides to get the front and the back legs in unison again, and it feels really awkward when they are disunited like that.
Sorry, I might have nerded out on you there.
Me: Don’t lie….did you actually read all that nerd out?
yes I did read it! 🙂
Me: Wow, you get a gold star…that is serious tune-that-out material!
horses fly for a sec and it’s tough for them to do all that and change leads with you a rider on there
WF: Nah, that’s interesting stuff! I like your horsey stories 🙂
Me: you even comprehended it!
WF: you did a thorough and good job of esplaining it
The flying changes are truly what have been holding me back from my next goal, a USDF Silver medal, a rider award. Until they are solid, as single changes, I have no hope of putting together lines of them, which we call tempi changes. Starting at 4’s, eventually getting down to the 1’s, or one tempis, which is when it looks like the horse is skipping because he is changing leads every single stride.
I still have lots of work ahead of me, because muscle memory takes time to devleop, and the way that Linda was saying what I should do really worked…and this isn’t that she is saying anything conceptually different than my other instructors, but she phrased it just a bit differently, at a slightly different time, and it worked!
WF: Sometimes that’s what it takes, someone saying it with the right words that you understand…we all learn (and teach) differently
It is nice to have a work buddy who doesn’t mind the occasional nerd out!
So, the steps that I jotted down.
1. use the outside rein to tell the horse the frame/balance you want.
2. use the inside leg first, then the rein to end the horse around the leg, which gives the canter more jump.
3. bring your shoulders back away from your hands to get them over your hips.
4. more leg for more forward, even more jump in each step, and she said “Do you feel that moment of suspension? That UP, UP, UP each stride”
And BOOM! There it was, I DID feel it. I mean, obviously you feel everything up there when you are riding, but which part of that feeling is the important moment?
So that was my moment, in each stride, the UP, when I was sitting with my shoulders away from my hands, that is the moment when I can ask for a change, and actually get a clean change, not blocking Bali.
Then I crossed the diagonal, and Linda was keeping me honest on all the little things that I lose, keeping the forward, outside connection, the jump in the canter, and saying “Up” on each stride, when I was feeling it, and I asked, and got clean changes. Both ways! And I actually felt like I was an active participant, not blindly grasping at the right moment.
Then we had some more quality trot work, a cool down and it was off to work.