Flying Lead Changes


Country Girl[IMG]emojione/assets/png/2665.png?v=2.
9 Years
Sep 25, 2010
How can I teach my horse Flying Lead Changes?

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Short answer - go to a trainer!

Truthfully, although many people on here could give you advice on how to train your horse to do a flying lead change, your best chance to learn how to do a flying lead change well is to go to a trainer who can help you and your horse individually. Good luck.
Toby it depends on your ability as a rider to help your horse. I first do very large figure 8's to start with and I literally will pick up my weight and shift it to the side I am changing leads to to help "pull" the horse over. It's a rough ride until the horse gets the hang of it and it feels like they are tripping, which my back and hips and face can tell you all about. I've had several trip themselves over the past 35 years and fall on me. But if you don't try and rush it they will pick it up, my barrel horse Texas would skip for me changing leads every step. After you work on single changes at a time in the figure 8, set up three barrels about 25 to 50 feet apart and go past the first one for example in the left lead, swing out wide towards the next barrel and using your weight and reins pull the horse into the right lead about half way to the next barrel, and then zig zag bag into the left lead for the last one. Over and Over and Over,,,, you can add more barrels or cones if you prefer. After you teach them using your weight, reigns and signals, to change leads on a turn, you will be able to teach them to do it on the straightaway as in equitation competition. I have a great book called How to Train the Reining Horse, it's from the Farnam Horse Library, it has good suggestions on leads too.

If your horse already knows how to change leads then you can work it on the straightaway and shift your weight to the side you want to change leads to using a zig zag pattern and slowly bring the pattern to a straight line just using your shifting weight to signal to the horse to change leads. I always really exaggerate the shifting of my weight at first to get his attention and then get more and more subtle. Some are dead set against using your weight and just want you to use leg and hand signals, but I always integrate both and I've trained some darn good horses.

Try these sites:

Great videos but not free!
Once you get figure 8s down pat, try placing a cavaletti in the center of the 8 for the horse to canter over. Helps the horse lift its shoulders when asking for the change. Although, I do suggest lessons for when you begin them, just to make sure you are doing them correctly.
It depends on what style of riding you do. For example hunter riders often will just go across the diagonal, jump a jump and turn, or do figure eights. Western riders often do figure eights. For dressage it's completely different. If you try to do it another way, you wind up with a flying lead change that doesn't go right for your riding sport.

But it isn't just about what you do, it's about how you do it and if you can get the idea across to the horse or not. Also, most of the time it takes a trainer to look at you and your horse and decide if you're ready or have to work on other things first.

Best? Go to a trainer that does your style of riding.
Most generically-correct answer is "you get the horse very well balanced, and then as you change bend (it is easiest for the horse if you do this at the center point of a LARGE figure-eight) you apply the canter aids for the opposite lead at the right moment." If the horse is used to going over a pole on the ground, that can help too but then it requires you to be even more precise in balancing/bending/steering.

However this relies on your knowing when the horse IS correctly balanced and bent, and what the correct instant in the canter stride IS to apply the aids, and how to use your aids to COMPLEMENT what the horse is doing instead of accidentally getting in his way. It is awfully awfully easy, even in a regular ol' canter depart let alone in a flying change, to be intentionally or accidentally leaning/flapping/swaying your body around in a way that makes it unappealing or impossible for the horse to do what you want him to.

So really the most sensible answer for someone asking the question on the internet is "get a trainer to help you". Really really.

So really the most sensible answer for someone asking the question on the internet is "get a trainer to help you". Really really.

This is so very true. So many riders can not even tell when each individual foot is striking the ground, let alone when to signal a change. They cannot "feel" which muscles the animal is using at any given moment. Heck, some can't even tell which lead they are in without looking to check! A trainer can help you learn ALL of these things. Until you can actually FEEL what your mount is doing beneath you, how in the world are you gonna help him do it better?!?


What worked best for me was training my horse to pick up the right lead in both directions going around the arena. I would cue her with my legs and body. Once I got her picking up the right leads going in a circle, I worked on getting her to pick up the desired lead going in a straight line. Once she had that down pat, flying lead changes came fairly easy. A lot had to do with balance on both our parts, but it was also easier when I had a clear cue so she had an idea what it was I wanted. I would always get complements while barrel racing that my mare had beautiful flying lead changes!
I just wanted to add that this training process I went through was not quick and easy. It took a lot of years of riding, and it wasn't until after owning my mare for about 6 years that I got her to the point where she could do nice flying lead changes.

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