Flying Change Hell Support Group

It has begun and we haven’t even asked for a change yet…

Prep has been going well. Yesterday trainer said “Today, we work on flying changes.” Horse said, “What is right lead?” I said, “Whose horse is this?!”

I was so excited to try. I’ve felt that we get very close to being ready to ask in some exercises, but apparently yesterday was not the day. Horse didn’t feel off, not sore anywhere I could find…best we can tell, I spent so much time on the more difficult (for him) left lead work, I let things slip to the right and he decided it was ok to drop out of right lead collected canter if given half a chance. Did some great canter work while correcting this, but not the right day to move forward. Ah well.

There seemed to be a lot of people in some stage of Lead Change Hell when I started another thread on the topic. Who else is here and where are you in the journey?


Oh hi, I’m cnm and I’m in some inner circle of this flying change hell with my 8yo chubby QH gelding.

I’m particularly enjoying the moments where our ability to canter anywhere, at all, evaporates entirely. This of course mixed with moments where our only canter option is changes everywhere.

In summary, you’re not alone!


This ain’t even close to flying lead change hell. You’re still a ways away from the firey underworld :sweat_smile:

My main struggle with the last one was that he has very little air time, and to get a better quality canter and change, he needed a bit more. So producing that was a chore. He’s a PRE so his ability to collect is good, but his ability to provide the type of expression and power, not so much.

We went through a phase of kicking out, which did produce a change, actually. Then jumping in the air. Then the occasional late change as he’d jump in the air and change the front first. Then came spontaneous tempis (anticipation). Then we lost the counter canter for a few days (short-lived though, not bad). Then we thought any aid in the canter could possibly lead to a change. Then we had change and scoot off for a few strides. He really gave it all he had as far as coming up with every little training hurdle. It was frustrating because his canter quality really wasn’t bad and did improve with various exercises, and a few trainers agreed it wasn’t the quality of the gait exactly, but more of a mental thing. Which is him; mental…err “highly intelligent” they call it. He was just one of those “ones” I guess. I’ve had it easier in the past.

On the plus side I now know 101 different exercises for producing quality flying changes/trouble shooting flying changes. So perhaps he was just taking me to school :rofl:

You’ve got to keep your sense of humor and chill…and maybe chilled wine.


Well, @cnm161 and @CanteringCarrot, your replies make me feel both better and worse. :laughing:

Though!!! …there is always the hope that this will go similarly to the introduction of travers, in which “we didn’t get it, we didn’t get, it made no sense to him, it was impossible, it made him angry, it was too hard, oh wait- everything is fine and we can easily show it with good marks”

I can hope…lol it already feels like hell and he’s getting d*** good at swapping leads through one step of trot.

@cnm161, how long ago did you introduce the changes? I also have a chubby 8yo


@RJC, quick rundown of my changes attempts and timeline:

I’ve put changes on a couple different horses (although I’m not a trainer), so I walked into this experience with full and unwarranted confidence.

Q1 of this year, starting to school counter-canter seriously, thought to myself: “Really should get changes installed before I go too far down counter canter and he thinks he never can change.” Attempted a couple changes, destroyed my counter canter. Got 1 successful change and called it good.

September: got excited about training the changes again. Lots of early success tied to canter quality. Following week, flying changes are everywhere. Executive decision to go back to simple changes for a bit til the drama irons itself out.

October: Lots of rain but also intermittent change success.

November: disunited changes happening on the aids; clean changes happening by divine intervention only. Making massive improvements to quality of the canter (jump, stride length), interspersed with honest confusion (“HOW DO I EVEN CANTER?”).

December: Well it started yesterday but there’s hope.


Flying Changes: Entry # 265

Dear diary,

There are still no changes. Only late swaps. The mare has told me she would rather be a hunter. I am considering her request.


This made me lol. And also…please keep me updated! There solace in having company

Ohhhh nooo! Do you work with a coach? Any particular reason you think the changes are not coming through? Maybe she would like to do second level freestyles instead :smiley:


Oh yes, I work with a coach. Two to three lessons a week, plus I ride on my own every day. I’m very aware of my mediocre abilities.
This little mare is sweet, and she sure does try. We can now get a few lovely steps of super-collected canter, and she lets me position her in either direction, we can renvers/travers/shoulder-fore in canter, half-pass, we have canter/walk/canter. She’s just… conformationally challenged. And does not have a naturally active and uphill canter. It’s just hard for her. She is really bred to be a hunter.

I back-burnered her over the summer when I was slammed with work and buying a youngster, plus prepping the other mare for show season. I’m paying for that now, I guess.

1 Like

We just started working on the changes 2 weeks ago having waited until after we were done competing Second for the year. I know I’m lucky my pony mare understood what I was asking for as long as I keep her straight and ask her correctly. We knew she’d be quick on at least the left to right which is why we held off training them.

She’s a trier and in my lesson yesterday while counter cantering she would either swap or prep herself to swap and I’d manage to stop it. So we’re kind of in the opposite hell of please counter canter and don’t swap unless asked and no I’d like a haunches in or half pass and not a canter.:slight_smile:



Entering this thread as we are prepping to start changes soon. She can do them already, but they are let’s say they are…a bit exuberant :joy: Looking forward to the tales of this hell and what I have to look forward to.


Good luck everyone!
We have a mare at the barn who has uneven length hind legs (birth defect - one hind leg was growing, the other wasn’t. She had surgery to help, but it didn’t make them even.) She took two years to learn changes through a LOT of patience. But eventually she did, and now she is working up toward one tempis with pretty good twos. You can get there!


I think this is well within Janet Foy’s description of Flying Change Hell! Welcome! I am highly envious of your quick progress. Please have your pony mare email my guy her thoughts on the matter.

All flavors of Flying Change Hell are represented now, I think. Too expressive, nonexistent, “variety fun pack,” anticipatory/not requested… the uneven hind legs is a new one for me. Amazing she’s still able to do so much!


I am descending into this Hell! My boy was getting very good at simple changes this Fall. I had started with a new instructor and a few weeks ago she said “Let’s play with a flying change and see what we get.” He had previously thrown in a change which was usually clean. I had established counter canter but didnt work on it much for fear of never getting changes. So asked for r-l and within a few tried got a clean change. Then asked for l-r and got leaping and bolting but no change. :scream:

After my lesson I practiced and I could get l-r (both when I asked and when I didnt) and found he could counter canter a 10m circle on his right lead a couple of times before leaping and doing a late-behind change.

I have let it simmer while we work through some “Whee! Its cold, I feel good!” issues. Of course instructor is now in Florida. I have to decide if I want to work through this in the cold of winter. He is the sort that will offer all kinds of variations and anticipate and volunteer.


This is the issue I had with one horse, she would start throwing changes at me & they were so intense. I hadn’t taught changes & neither did her prior owner so there was never much of a cue that asked for them haha

Well we went through the part of changes hell where we decided counter canter was not possibly what anyone would ask for so changes came from every direction at every moment possible. It became obvious after I introduced them that ‘getting the changes’ was NOT going to be the issue. Respecting and staying supple to the reins and allowing someone ELSE to determine the balance, lead and degree of engagement of the canter IS the issue. I’m starting to see some hope and after putting second level (in terms of competition) behind us. We finally started to actually ask for flying changes in our lessons just last week. As long as I focus on the quality of the canter, making sure my guy stays supple in both reins and keep the canter where it needs to be - FORWARD - the changes are clean with decent air time. Sounds simple right? LOL…as long as I can, as long as I can, as long as I can, as long as I can… at least it’s clear that this guy likes to perform the flying change and doesn’t receive the request as a foreign language :wink:


I’ve been lucky in that my mare has a talent for them, BUT she thinks she ought to just do them when SHE thinks she ought to do them. Half pass to the rail, straighten, mare says “we don’t need to straighten. I felt your leg, I’m just gonna change”. Got that worked out and then she started to suck back and hop/leap into the change. Got that worked out and thought “lemme try two across the diagonal”. She got mad. “I did ONE for you. Isn’t that enough?? You’re never happy!”

Honestly though, it’s fun to work on them whether we get them all the time or not.


I didn’t expect to have @MsM in this hell! Welcome!

The grass is always greener on the other side, but I think this sounds more fun than getting NO changes. That said…with no change, one could keep showing 2nd towards performance awards or freestyles. With an unstoppable change train, the counter canter serpentine might get exciting.


isn’t it fun? hahaha

My girl is very very sharp so just one sit in the wrong direction and its oh, CHANGE! with a huge buck and launch hahaa

My back hurts just thinking about it


Have been working at opening up the canter this week as I have diagnosed the root cause of my changes issues as “needs more power from behind”.

Yesterday’s result:


Any suggestions for a young 17.2h horse who is very comfortable in the counter canter? And even willing to maintain a cross canter (ugh)? Nothing happens when I change my aids for the new lead, except he sometimes gets faster in the counter canter…