Four months later, my horse has no inclination to throw in an impromptu change. His transitions in and out of the canter feel very nice. His is relaxed and carrying himself. I can throw in a little counter canter here and there without too much fanfare. Admittedly, I have not practiced the counter canter as much as I originally intended. The summer heat does not go well with lots of canter practice.
Yesterday we went on a trail ride. I warmed him up in the ring to see how he was feeling. He did not cough even once! I was so, so happy.
I had been thinking that the time to ask for a flying change was near. Apparently, Harley could hear my thoughts. As we went to change direction in a figure-eight, I started to ask him to collect a little for a transition to trot and he offered a smooth-as-glass flying change from the right to the left lead. It was gorgeous! With the maiden change out of the way, I couldn't wait to get back in the saddle and try it again.
Today, we schooled flying changes. I learned some interesting things. Harley has not forgotten them and they still make him excited. He is still much better at the right to left change than the left to right. We did not get a really nice left to right today, but I can be patient. After all, I waited four months with the hopes of improving them by working on just the canter and the transitions!
Harley bucked into the change a few times. That is not gone, despite all the transition and relaxation work in the last four months. I need to approach the change with more clarity. I think "flying change" and he knows what that is, but what he gives me is not exactly what I want. I want a balanced, calm change with his shoulders up, not his backside! I need to start making that part of my mental image and riding the change like any other gait or transition that I want uphill. I have been asking that of him for a while now. I cannot forget it just because we are doing something exciting.
Things I Need To Do:
- Ride for an uphill change. Keep the backdoor of my seat closed and the front door open. I know how to ride this way, but I tend to lean forward in anticipation. I just need to stay focused on my position before, during, and after the transition.
- Keep my legs forward and minimize the outside leg cue. He does not change at all if I slide my leg back and push. Just doesn't work. I need to ride from my seat.
- Imagine his shoulders up and ride them that way. Do not accept a change that begins with his head, neck, and shoulders diving down. I was able to stop him in the dive a couple times, because my position was really solid. He was surprised and complained a little, but I need to make my expectations clear. I want a healthy, balanced change.
- Prepare for the change like any other transition. The two best flying changes that he did were when I prepared like I wanted a canter to walk transition. He stayed level and just swapped his legs. He was light on his feet and it felt easy. I tried to memorize the feeling.
- Do not let him get too tired on the left lead. He gets too heavy. If he cannot do a canter to walk transition, he does not have the balance or strength to do a change. Quit and try next time.
- Praise him for the right kind of change and have fun! Allow him to move out his canter or relax with a longer neck if he gets too tight.