All About Flying Changes


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Have you ever ridden a flying lead change? Horses for sale that can perform flying changes often bring higher prices than horses of similar quality that cannot perform flying changes. The flying change requires proper training on the part of both the horse and the rider in order to successfully execute it. Let’s take a look at the flying change and how you might put it to use in your riding.

What Is the Flying Change?

A horse has two leads when he canters: his right lead and his left lead. On the left lead, the footfalls of one stride end with the horse pushing off with his left front foot – the horse is then airborne for a moment before beginning the next stride. On the right lead, the horse’s right front foot is the last to push off of the ground. When traveling to the right, the horse uses his right lead; when traveling to the left he uses his left lead.

When a horse changes directions at the canter, he also needs to change his lead so that he can properly balance around curves. Horses can do this two ways. To perform a simple change, a horse returns to the trot and then resumes the canter on the new lead.

In performing a flying change, though, the horse does not slow to the trot. Instead, he leaps into the air and changes the pattern of his footfalls so that when he next touches down, he strides off on the new lead. The flying change allows a horse to change directions while continuing at the canter, cutting down on the time needed and keeping his rhythm consistent through the direction change.

How Do You Ask for a Flying Change?

While at the canter, slightly change your weight and the position of your body so that you are positioned as if the horse were cantering on the new lead that you want him to take. Signal the horse as you would typically signal for the canter in that direction – use your outside leg and your inside rein to change the bend of the horse’s body, and ask him to continue on at the canter. Be prepared – some horses take a large leap when performing a flying change.

How Do You Train a Horse to Perform a Flying Lead Change?

If your horse cannot yet perform a flying lead change, start by performing figure-eights at the canter. When you get to the center of the eight, ask for a simple change of direction. Ask the horse to canter on the new lead as quickly as possible after slowing to the trot.

Repeat this exercise, each time trying to decrease the amount of time that the horse spends at the trot. Gradually the horse should understand that you are asking him to change leads at the canter, and should perform a flying change. This can take days, weeks, or even months for a horse to learn.

If you’re looking at horses for sale, remember that the ability to perform a flying lead change can be a great asset in your riding and competition.

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