Canter Questions for the Dressage Riders

My current mare is a 5 years old and green. She was started by a dressage trainer at 3, but has been through the wringer with a kid owning her for a bit, before she was then sold to me.

I don’t ride dressage, and aside from the 6 month stint I did with an eventing trainer (where we mostly worked on jumping) I don’t have a clue about dressage “aids” and “cues”.

However, I feel like it’s time to learn, since this mare was started by a dressage trainer, and we’ve had some issues with canter.

She’s picked up on voice commands due to extensive ground work, and I can get her into any gait by asking. However, OUR goal is to go in the hunter or eq ring, where talking is not permissible.

What would be the correct way to A) ask for the canter and B) ask for a flying change?

This varies from barn to barn, trainer to trainer, and discipline to discipline, but I thought since she was started by a classical dressage trainer, maybe I can be enlightened.

After getting the lead only about 50% of the time by squeezing inside leg at the girth and outside leg just behind, the BO suggested bumping with my outside rein. Next time out, I squeezed with my inside leg at the girth and lifted my outside rein. She got her leads all but one time. Is this a normal way to ask? It just feels awkward to me, and I guess I was just not taught this way.

As for flying changes, she does them auto when she lands off jumps, but won’t change if we do a change of direction through the middle of the ring. What are my proper parameters to ask her of this if the dressage trainer did indeed put a flying change on her?

In hunter land my previous trainers always had me step out into the outside stirrup and bump with inside leg. I’ve heard this to be “wrong” but then again, what is right?

Thanks in Advance!

Flying changes don’t happen in a dressage horses career until a bit down the road so your horse probably doesn’t know what your are asking when you ask for a change.
On my 3 yo I cue with my outside leg back at the girth. He gets his right lead everytime and 90% of the time he gets his left.
If lifting the outside rein helps your horse then use it to build consistency then you can refine your aid to what you want your horse to respond to.

I have to admit, I’ve never heard of “pumping” outside rein as a cue, unless you mean half-halting with outside rein, in which case it makes sense. Usually you want the outside rein to be the steady rein, so no pumping any time (half-halting is not pumping). For a youngster, outside leg back is all I use - sometimes far back. It helps to create a sort of leg yield feeling before the cue too. Your body must be in the correct lead as well. For more mature horse, inside leg to active his inside hind, outside leg brush back at the “now” moment, which is when his outside hind is in the ground, and lift inside seat bone when he lifts up. For more advanced horses, outside leg become less dominant.

As to flying lead change, I’m afraid you won’t get an answer you like in a dressage forum. I don’t know what hunters want for their flying lead changes, but in dressage you and your horse must be absolutely straight (straight in dressage sense) and he must have sufficient uphill balance. Your youngster won’t be ready for at least another few years.

My thought on lifting the outside rein helping was that the horse is perhaps bulging through the outside shoulder, and it gave the horse sufficient outside aids to hold it straight and allow for a proper canter depart?

Agreed that I highly doubt this horse has lead changes. Some folks do introduce them as early as possible just to give the horse a taste, then step away for several years, but it sounds unlikely here.

Sounds as though it had some interesting dressage training.

Usual aids for canter, are, inside leg at the girth, outside leg back behind the girth, with a mild flexion in the desired canter direction of the head and neck. The outside leg goes back to cue the horse to reach further under with the outside hind, as that is the initial stride of the canter. The riders shoulders should be turned in the direction of the canter, inside hip forward, outside hip back.

It seems as though my general thought on asking with inside at girth, outside behind is more correct than what this mare was taught.

I thought it to be funny to lift up on the outside rein to ask for canter, I feel discombobulated and it almost makes me feel like I’m throwing my balance to the inside which I don’t want to do.

The BO suggested using my outside rein because apparently trainer who started this horse (and her own horse) is an outside rein “lover”. I don’t know her reasoning behind it, and I’m not convinced it’s correct, which is why I asked here!

Interesting thoughts on flying changes, as well. I never knew that flying changes in dressage came down the road. In the hunter and EQ ring, you can pretty much bet if your horse doesn’t have a flying change, you aren’t getting a ribbon, and will probably get laughed at. (not a big fan of hunter or eq) <-- but unfortunately it’s all I really know.

I would imagine they mean to half-halt with the outside rein, not lift it.

Actually for my trainer, lowering the outside rein and lifting the inside rein is a consistent and subtle cue to the horse that I’m going to ask for change of direction in the direction of the lifted inside rein.

I do eventing but even the strictly dressage instructor never wanted me to raise the outside rein . He did have me counter bend prior asking to pick up the lead we were having trouble with.

I don’t think even in hunters a flying change is usually taught at the age of three .

[QUOTE=One Two Three;7841321]
Interesting thoughts on flying changes, as well. I never knew that flying changes in dressage came down the road. In the hunter and EQ ring, you can pretty much bet if your horse doesn’t have a flying change, you aren’t getting a ribbon, and will probably get laughed at. (not a big fan of hunter or eq) <-- but unfortunately it’s all I really know.[/QUOTE]

Hunter changes and dressage changes are very different beasts (whether or not they should be so different is up for debate I suppose). Dressage riders expect very balanced and expressive changes while hunters are looking for a quick, handy change that is almost unnoticeable. If you watch some hunter changes on youtube you’ll notice they tend to be long and flat - you often see them being done front to back, although a good change should be back to front in either discipline. Dressage changes are much rounder, more expressive, and to be correct and score well they MUST be uphill/come back to front. This is why we wait until the dressage horse has quite a bit of training and is very well balanced before we introduce the changes.

I know that’s not super helpful in how to do them with your horse… I’m thinking your trainer will be the best one to help you with that. Just an explanation of why we don’t teach them until later and why your horse is probably super confused as to what you’re asking. She has more than likely never done or been asked to do a change under saddle :slight_smile:

ETA a couple of examples that show the difference because I think it’s interesting to compare…



Changes start at about the 5 minute mark with the two tempis - there are a few single changes during the canter tour after that.

Have you tried just asking with one leg or the other? For example, when I ask my horse to canter, it’s inside seatbone and inside leg at the girth. My outside leg doesn’t move, and is totally uninvolved. But yet I was always taught in hunters to ask only with my outside leg back. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. My first horse, who I rode in hunter lessons in the beginning, would get very cranky with outside-leg-back aids, so we learned that he actually preferred inside leg only, which is also what my current 100% dressage horse knows and responds well to.

From the sound of your post, you not only added the “lift the outside rein” but eliminated the “outside leg back” approach. I do wonder if your mare was trained to respond to just the inside leg, for whichever lead, and the outside rein is merely helping to support her and explain that you’re not asking her to move over, but to step under and canter.

If your horse isn’t 100% reliable in canter departs, she isn’t ready for you to even think about a lead change. This is true in hunters/dressage/whatever.

I would have your hunter trainer ride the horse and get the departs confirmed. It will be less confusing for the horse and easier for you to do after. Shouldn’t take too long if you have a good trainer.

I’m sure you’re a decent rider, but cleaning up after a kid who clearly had no business on a baby is a job for a pro.

retrain it with aids for dummies.

I seriously had to do that one time. He was trained very very dressagy. The guy would not canter with anything but seat aids. Not very helpful when you need to give aids while in two point!

Hence the reason I strongly believe in teaching kiddos to add before moving to algebra and calculus.

I like my horses to canter with just a smooch. Then canter with the outside leg.
and then once they know the very basics I teach the inside leg. And then I teach seat.

Some may disagree with that method but I find it works great and EVERYONE can ride the horse.

Just like I believe all horses should be able to neck rein. Which is essentially the outside rein. If touch my horse’s neck with my FINGER, he should turn.
No questions asked.

I prefer simple. : )