Flying lead changes trouble

Hey- I have a horse who gets very excited about doing lead changes. Especially when coming towards the gate/barn, he gets speedy and anticipates the change. It’s hard to bring him back to me even to do a simple change because he gets so anxious. And it’s usually ok on the flat but when we start jumping it it a problem. He often is not getting the entire change (cross cantering) so that makes him frustrated. Also, he is much better about it at home, but it gets a lot worse whenever we go to shows and it’s hard to concentrate on keeping him calm and collected. If anyone has advice for me that would be great. I’m thinking of practicing lead changes more at home until he gets comfortable doing them and does the entire change. Sometimes I also think that I am not askin for the change correctly- and he often does the Change before I ask for it. I just want him to do the entire change and stay the same collected pace- not speed up and throw his head around like he usually does

What does your trainer say? This would be a situation you would want them to help you with. If it were my horse I would start with trainer’s advice and then an exam by a vet. Make sure your horse is not in pain when doing a lead change. Sometimes there are stifle or hock issues and it makes it hard to get a change. Keep in mind that it is far harder for a layman to see lameness or soreness in the hind end than in the front end, or at least it is for me. Is it worse on one side than the other? Does his stride seem short in the back on one side or the other? How old is the horse?

If anxiety is an issue, finish off your canters with a lead change.
When you’re ready to be done cantering, come up the diagonal, do a change, coast 6 strides, and then walk on the buckle with a pat. Do this every time and he’ll look for the change to signal “and, we’re done.”

If he cross canter, bring him back to the walk and pick up the correct lead, THEN after a few steps walk on the buckle.

Get him to the point where he thinks he is done after doing a lead change, and then gradually build back the amount of work you do after the change.

First, fix the cross canter issue. It sounds, to me, that he’s falling on his forehand and stringing his backend along when he gets excited.
He may be telling you that he needs that extra bit of pace to get the change, some horses need a little bit of a bigger stride until they’re more comfortable/have the muscling to carry themselves and change in a collected pace.

Is he taking off after the change as well? Or does he come back easier?

I agree with getting him examined by a vet (stifles/hocks would be something to look into), and get your trainer involved.

My guess is you’re going into your changes with a lot of pace, but not a lot of impulsion. To correctly complete the change, he needs to be able to rock back, have his feet underneath him, and be balanced.

Have you tried asking him to half halt prior to asking for the change? That is what helps my heavy on the forehand greenie. A gentle half halt as a little “Hey, I’m going to ask you to do something in a second” is all she needs to pay attention and be ready for the cue. If he is cantering along and all of a sudden he’s asked to swap, he will get nervous and fumble in an effort to please you.

As mentioned, don’t drill changes as that will only add to the problem. Once he does a change, he gets to walk and lots of praise so he KNOWS that he did the right thing. If the counter canter continues, it’s likely he’s not truly conditioned enough to be doing changes yet anyway, or his balance would be secure and he would know how to keep himself balanced.

Give the half halt a go, make sure to work in lots of praise for just a single change, and just keep plugging along.

I would do the opposite of what you’re suggesting. I wouldn’t do MORE lead changes at home; I would do ZERO lead changes. I’d stop doing them completely. I think over-schooling lead changes is one of the biggest mistake that people make.

Lead changes are - like it or not - a HUGE deal in the hunters and not having one means you may never ever get a ribbon. (And in the jumpers, where a clean lead change can mean the difference between jumping a fast clean fence, and sluggedly cross cantering through the corner and jumping off balance, you will severely limit your progress.)

I would stop attempting flying changes completely until you can nail the simple change. If you still want to show, trot the changes and accept the lack of ribbon. You’re not going to put in a quality round with rushed ugly changes or cross cantering, so just focus on doing a simple change CORRECTLY.

And I would enlist the help of your trainer. If you don’t have one, get one. Lead changes are something that I think are practically IMPOSSIBLE to teach a horse unless you know the feel of them and have the timing of them VERY WELL, or your horse just naturally has an easy change. You can do a lot of damage to a change by schooling them incorrectly and asking for them too much.

There’s no shame in getting help putting changes on your horse. It’s a really tricky skill to master, especially on a horse that doesn’t provide them naturally. I have no great skill in them, myself, and still struggle on a horse without a natural change.

That’s my opinion, at least.

[QUOTE=AmmyByNature;7678828]I would do the opposite of what you’re suggesting. I wouldn’t do MORE lead changes at home; I would do ZERO lead changes. I’d stop doing them completely. I think over-schooling lead changes is one of the biggest mistake that people make.

Lead changes are - like it or not - a HUGE deal in the hunters and not having one means you may never ever get a ribbon. (And in the jumpers, where a clean lead change can mean the difference between jumping a fast clean fence, and sluggedly cross cantering through the corner and jumping off balance, you will severely limit your progress.)

I would stop attempting flying changes completely until you can nail the simple change. If you still want to show, trot the changes and accept the lack of ribbon. You’re not going to put in a quality round with rushed ugly changes or cross cantering, so just focus on doing a simple change CORRECTLY.

And I would enlist the help of your trainer. If you don’t have one, get one. Lead changes are something that I think are practically IMPOSSIBLE to teach a horse unless you know the feel of them and have the timing of them VERY WELL, or your horse just naturally has an easy change. You can do a lot of damage to a change by schooling them incorrectly and asking for them too much.

There’s no shame in getting help putting changes on your horse. It’s a really tricky skill to master, especially on a horse that doesn’t provide them naturally. I have no great skill in them, myself, and still struggle on a horse without a natural change.

That’s my opinion, at least.[/QUOTE]

Agree 100%.

My horse is not very naturally uphill and has always struggled with lead changes. I made the mistake of “working on them” with a hunter trainer who had me cantering across the diagonal to do a lead change in every lesson. My horse got worse and worse and eventually I had to stop doing them completely.

He’s an eventer now so no lead changes necessary at our level (BN) BUT with all the dressage he’s been doing, his canter is way more balanced than it ever was, and guess what? He does them on course without me asking.

Do you only ever try lead changes while cantering across the diagnal? Have you tried cantering partway across the diagnol and then doing something else?

Examples:

Come to trot at X and do a circle, continue trotting across the diagnal.
Come to walk at another point on the diagnol, change direction and go do something else.
Change your gait before you get to the diagnol.
Come to halt. Ask for canter on new lead.

When my mare first learned lead changes, she was ok at first, then started to fret about the diagnal. Doing something different kept her mind engaged and forced her to wait. Among doing all those different things (and not drilling them, making them random) once a while I would ask for a lead change. We got them! And now they are no big deal, even going up centre line.

Good luck!

I am in the camp that wants to know what your instructor says. Are you cantering flat, is your balance correct, are you using too much hand?

Practicing at home will not solve your problems of you are still making the same errors in asking. It will compound them.

How’s your lateral work?

Don’t school changes for a while. Work on getting your horse to respond softly and quickly to your leg pressure, laterally.

Once you can control the hind end well through lateral work, it’ll be a lot easier to have them understand what your leg is asking their hind end to do for the lead change.