Skip to main content

Flying Changes Simple Tips to Help You Transition Past 2nd Level

Over the years many students have come to us stuck on that huge plateau that is 2nd level dressage. Their horses have excelled ( they say) at all the 2nd level tests and have a counter canter to die for - so why they ask, can't my horse master the change.

We've all seen it. The rider jumping left to right on the saddle with the horse's rear swinging anxiously with no semblance of straightness, the weird and wonderful contortions of both horse and rider. The rider's lower leg bouncing up toward the hip or stifle, their holding hands dragging the horse to the new inside, hands lifted to their chins, and all the other maladies that await you when you are learning the changes and how to school them.

First rule. It is very helpful, though not absolutely necessary, to have ridden the flying change (s) on a schoolmaster with a ground person that knows of what they speak. When you yourself have no idea of the 'feel' and the subtle change in balance of the horse beneath you with your required timing of the aids,  teaching flying changes to your horse is much  harder than it needs to be.

The second rule, and the one most often overlooked, is that just because the horse has a solid, well scored counter canter, does not mean he is supple or strong enough for changes. The testing is well based to build the horse, but each horse has a different mentality and conformation, and must be treated individually. We'll look at conformational issues in Part Three of this blog.

Here is a photo I shot of Jan Ebeling and Rafalca, one of my favorite partnerships in mid change. Lendon Gray used to say ( and probably still does), to watch good riding. Well hopefully Jan will find his way to the Olympics in London this year and show the world his talents.

Some of the greatest flying changes you see are actually in the awards ceremonies. The horses know their job for the day is done, the riders are happy and relaxed. If you haven't see the footage of Dr. Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich at Madison Square Garden doing changes, hat and roses in hand, you've missed a treat. Check it out on the video The Magic of Classical Dressage Pas de Deux and Pas de Trois. The great Dr. Reiner Klimke would say that your horse must 'pop' in each canter stride. The horse must be 'up' and in front of the leg. I totally agree. An earthbound canter will result in changes that are late behind ( if you achieve them at all),  and a four beat or slow/lazy canter will not make a clean change possible either.  Another great team to watch is Karen Rehbein and Donnerhall who are showcased also on the DVD above, though as a breeder of Donnerhall babies in the past I've got to say, get the Donnerhall DVD. Some real wow factors there too. Anyway - you get the idea, watch great riders doing great changes and feel that canter they have created.

Common faults that occur include the rider leaning forward, over compensating for the change in balance, upsetting the new balance, holding the reins and not giving the reins in the right moment in a following manner, too much bend in the neck of the horse, looking down, looking up, kicking, aids given too hard or at the wrong time. Yes, these are just a few of the pitfalls.

Another issue is once someone fools around trying to teach the horse the change before the stepping stones are in place, the horse may become fearful and bolt off. A habit that is hard to break. More on that later.

Come follow my blog to read part 2 in this series. The important Do's to create a balanced and through flying change. But do your homework first, and get your eye 'in' so you have a good image in your brain before you begin.


  1. Home listings and homes for sale near your area.
    Find your perfect property advertised by owner and real estate agent.
    More details


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Selling a Horse? Look Out for Scammers

I confess to being amazed at the change in the horse market over the past several years. It used to be that you posted a print ad and produced a video and folks would call you to ask lots of questions about your beautiful horse and if you felt them to be a serious prospective buyer ( or even if you didn't) you'd send them a copy of the video.

After receipt of same the buyer would generally either call or return the video with a note saying whether or not they were interested.

With the arrival of the internet, website and social media the market has certainly changed. I believe the availability of free information on a horse you have for sale to a massive audience is helpful overall. But unfortunately with it comes a lot more than just tire kickers.

Video of Gambol's Genevieve: For Sale Currently $5000.00 Price will increase once under saddle.

A few experiences from the past two months:

A named Young Rider located in Texas contacts me online through Facebook and asks for inform…

The Grand Prix Dressage Test ~ All Chopped Up With No Place To Show

The new shortened version of the Grand Prix dressage test will be showcased at Olympia, London, UK, this December. The new test has not been well received in the dressage community and there are many good reasons why.

The FEI seems to have gone for a shorter test, thinking this means more spectator interest which is ridiculous as the reduction of the test by 2 minutes per test will not mean more viewers. What it will do is to reward the horses at the very top of the sport already, that have crowned their talents with excellent 3 'p's movements. 

The new test offers lots of activity early in on the test which means no time to allow the horse and rider to settle into the test. While much of it feels more like an Intermediate test than a Grand Prix, the missing elements such as the zig zags would have Wolfgang Niggli turning in his grave. The rein back also missing will have many classical dressage trainers also frustrated. I am sure from my personal training experiences with the l…

A Solid Foundation is Everything in Horse Training

Over the many years of training horses, not just our own homebreds or imports but also for clients that send them in for schooling and development, we know that horses need time to develop their own personalities and to develop their confidence. With horses that don't belong to us but are under our wing for a portion of their training and careers, we have additionally experienced a variety of clientele with a myriad of notions and levels of education as to just what constitutes what in the training pyramid.

Our mantra is based in the classical training that we have received and that we continue to receive from notable sources/masters of dressage around the world. Simply put, a solid foundation is fundamental to the success of the horse in his training. 

Some owners know basically nothing about dressage. They have seen a pretty horse or two dancing at an exhibition, have even developed an eye as a breeder and know lots about bloodlines and can read the studbooks out loud almost from …