I had an excellent ride on my horse today. As the everlasting optimist, I nearly always describe my rides in a good light. To cut to the chase, my Dad sometimes just asks if I had another "awesome" ride. I see myself not just as a rider, but as a trainer for my horse and if we are to be successful, my horse needs to always feel that he has done a great job. So even if everything was not perfect, I can find many wonderful things in each ride and those are the things that I think about when I pat my horse and give him his well-deserved carrots.
Today was a success in many ways, but the icing on the cake was the flying change. I feel like a typical human, getting excited about flying changes, because to the horse they are a normal way to swap leads and direction at the canter. Harley likes to change legs when cantering at liberty, so I really did not teach him to change, just that he was allowed to when I was on board.
Although welcomed, the flying change was not completely planned. As a matter of fact, I wanted to ride a shallow counter canter loop on the the left leg traveling down the long side. I started the counter canter loop at the beginning corner of the long side, guarding his quarters a bit with my outside leg. As we approached the middle of the loop, I purposely made an adjustment in my position and nudged him with my inside (left) leg to ask him to turn right, back towards the long side.
Flying Change! Harley jumped into the right lead from the left with a beautiful feeling of strength and purpose. The change was clean and as soon as it happened, I knew that I had unintentionally asked him to change. We continued across the diagonal in the same rhythm and tempo, as if that is what I had wanted all along, and I praised him for his efforts. We have not practiced left to right lead changes very often and this is definitely still a new movement for us, so I did not want to punish or correct him. Clearly he was listening to me and I had managed to ask for a crisp change, something that I would like to be able to repeat.
Reflection. This is so important to riding and in many ways the most enjoyable part. I get to spend limited time with my horse, but I can spend hours daydreaming about our rides and how best to learn from them. I practice reflection for pretty much all aspects of my life. I find it to be invaluable to the thinking rider and thoughtful person.
So why did he change so nicely and on the less practiced side? The tempo was energetic, but not hurried. I was guarding his quarters with my outside (right) leg before the change. I have read that canter half pass helps prepare the horse for the flying change, so maybe this was a baby version having the same effect. The reins were pretty much passive as I asked for a turn with my left leg. My left leg was almost on the girth and I think this was important. My horse hates rider legs that go too far back. The leg gets in his way and frustrates him terribly. I also suspect that I shifted my weight a little more to the left seat bone when I gave the nudge with my left leg. This would also encourage a left to right change, because it would lighten the new inside seatbone, giving him a place to jump and giving me a lot to think about.