Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lead Changes

History: about a year or so ago I decided it was about time for Milo to learn his lead changes. Took some time to teach the simple change which he nailed, than thought I would work on his flying lead change. I hadnt trained a horse to do it before, but was always on a horse that already knew. So I knew what it was and basically how to cue for it. To help with it, I put a pole on the ground and would ask for a change over the pole. Worked on it for a little while, but either Milo would miss the change, get confused, or buck into the change. That didnt feel like how I remembered.

Than I went back to lead departures and thought I needed to spend some more time solidifying that cue.

Now its been about a year later and all this time I have skated around working on the flying change mostly because I wasnt sure how to approach it again. But thank goodness for the wealth of information there is on the web and in print. I subscribe to Horse and Rider Magazine and in one edition about two months ago Bob Avila demostrated the importance of straightness in a proper lead change. Check out the article and photos here. Basically, you get up two poles down the center of the arena top to end style about twenty feet apart. The idea is to give you and your horse a visual of being straight before and after the change. Between the two poles, you ask for a leg yeild over than the change. I hadnt thought much more about the article until I saw a more recent article by Al Dunning on getting a proper lead departure here, whereby you lope or trot say a circle, stop, leg yeild away from the direction of your desired lead direction, than once the horse feels balanced and on his "propeling" hind leg, ask for the lead departure. This got me thinking more about how to go about getting Milo ready for a flying lead change again.

So yesterday I went to the barn with these practices in mind, but figured I would only work on the lead change if Milo was really working well and paying attention (no use in trying something new if the horse isnt mentally there anyways). But I also worked on pole work again for warm up to get him thinking about picking up his back and using his hind end, something he would need to be thinking about for a good lead departure and change. I had four poles set up at four feet apart, and I also set up a low cross rail to further help him pick his back up and round. Did great over both on the ground, than I hopped on.

Worked a little on transitions and Milo was great!! Worked over the poles and encouranged more roundness and suppling, than finally loped over the cross rail twice, the second time feeling wonderfully round. I than did a tune up on his lead departures using the technique from Al Dunning, which worked great. It really encouraged Milo to pick up the departure from his hind end, rather than just falling into it, which simultaniously helped him in a better transition too.

Once I felt he was working really well for me, and using his body properly I thought I would take a stab at the flying change, using two poles set up as Bob Avila had described. The first lope through, Milo leg yeilded over well, but didnt get the lead change. Thats ok, lets regroup and try it again. Again, he missed it and again. I finally realized he simply didnt know what my cue was asking. So after the third try and a missed change, I thought I need him to know what Im asking, so I broke him down and asked for a simple change. Did this twice to reinfornce changing the lead. When I went through the poles again, I blanced myself over him, leg yeilded him over slightly, than asked for the change and Voila!! He changed beautifully and correctly, staying balanced and straight all the way through, and lifting himself just long enough to swing his hind end underneath himself and change onto the new lead. I brought him right down to a walk and said "Good Boy!!" so many times I couldnt even count them, patting his neck and praising him over and over. I got off and let him graze a little grass. What a good horse!!

It makes me feel better that I went back and covered my bases on the basics again instead of rushing into a flying change again when he just wasnt prepared enough for it. Now he is at a point where he understands leg aids better and more importantly, what it is to lift his back and really engage his hind end. My little Milo is growing up!!


Kate said...

That's pretty exciting, and some good work - I'll bet he thinks so too!

in2paints said...

Congratulations to you and Milo! Flying changes are difficult, so kudos to you both! :)

I haven't reached the point of training my mare for flying changes yet... with any luck we'll eventually get there, but I'm going to review the articles you posted here before starting for sure!

paint_horse_milo said...

definitely try them out in2paints, I didnt think much more of them after I read the articles, but do try it. At the minimum, the exercise from Al Dunning really helps in lead departures as well as transitions.