Heh, so much for wordless Wednesday...
I decided I'd work on lead changes this morning and it really does help me to write the process down. So you all get to enjoy what I'm learning in lessons about lead changes.
My trainer told us there are many different ways to change leads, but he has found one way that works for him and that is what he's going to teach us.
He then asked us what were some common problems we see when a horse is asked to change leads. One of the biggest things is that a horse will run off after changing leads, or worse yet, he won't even switch leads and he'll run off at the cue to change. Another problem is that a horse will change leads in front, but not in back, he'll cross-canter. We also talked about horses that will buck during a flying change.
Andy specifically teaches changes the way he does to avoid all of those problems.
First I'll explain the process, and then I'll tell you why those problems are avoided using this method.
We start off with 3 cones in a straight line, evenly spaced. To begin with, we trotted our horses from the first cone, to the 2nd cone. We were supposed to be visualizing going from the left lead to the right lead. At the 2nd cone we applied our left spur and asked our horse to move his hip over and at the same time we brought him down to a walk. It's very important that when you apply your spur you are getting the hip and only the hip. You don't want your horse to side pass or leg yield, you want them to swing their hip over and keep the rest of their body straight.
It's also important to come down to a walk when you are asking for the hip so your horse learns that the spur is not a cue to go faster and run off, but a cue to move his hip and eventually change leads. Once you feel your horse move his hip over release all aids and let him walk freely forward to the last cone. Stop there, do a turn on the forehand (reminding your horse of the cue to move his hips) and repeat, going back the way you came.
Once you've got the trot to walk down, you can move up to the canter to trot. Start at cone 1 and ask for the left lead. At cone 2 apply your spur as if you were cueing for the right lead to get the hip and bring him down to a trot. Once he moves his hip let him trot freely to the last cone. Stop at the last cone, turn and repeat.
Next you can go from left lead to right lead, doing a simple change at the 2nd cone. Always stopping at the last cone. This is as far as I've gotten so that's all I'm going to talk about until I learn more about the actual flying change.
But, as you can see this teaches your horse that the spur is not a cue to run off. When you lay the spur on, your horse learns you are asking for his hip, not a faster speed. Using a straight line instead of teaching your horse to change going from a left circle to a right circle ensures that your horse will change both in front and back. A horse that changes in front and not in back does so because his front feet changed direction before his back feet did. I have seen lots of people try to force their horses to change leads by doing a fast direction change and "throwing" them into it, and it may work sometimes, but I mostly see the horse will change in front and not in back.
Even in a reining pattern where you change in the middle of your circles, you should still be on a straight line directly between the 2 circles when you ask for the change.
As far as the bucking goes, I think that comes from a horse who is not comfortable with the spur being laid on them. Once again, using this method, the horse becomes confident knowing that the spur was laid on as a cue to move the hip, and nothing more.
I have a video showing the 3 different steps I described, but it is very small because I didn't have anyone to film for me and it's not easy to get all those cones in frame. I hope you can get something from it, but if not I will do another video when Aubrey is here to film me.