Monday, April 19, 2010

Counter Canter & Flying Changes

An interesting topic of discussion with dressage trainers can often be kicked off with the question:   Which should schooled on the horse first?   Counter canter or flying changes?

And the answer will often start with, "It depends."   :-)   Yes, there are various training approaches.....

Plan A:   For Piper, his training has generally followed the levels of dressage.   Using the dressage tests as guidelines, a rider can learn a good sound progression of lessons for the dressage horse.   Using that approach, working canter is followed by lengthened strides of canter, then counter canter, then collected and medium canters, and finally flying changes.

Plan B:   Another approach is to start playing with flying changes when the counter canter work begins.   This approach works best when the rider is truly skilled at both movements and can be very clear in differentiating the aids for the horse.

Plan C:   And yet another approach is to take what the horse offers and try to expand on it, educating the horse on the aids whenever he is being generous with the movement.

(No doubt, there are a few more plans available to clever dressage riders.)

With Piper, I have pretty much stuck with Plan A.   And that was my plan, until today.

Piper has started training and competing over jumps with his young hunter/jumper rider, Eliza.   And in working over full courses, he has just started to doing flying changes on his own to help keep himself balanced in the canter as they navigate the course.   Okay.   But today, while Eliza tried some counter canter work, he offered unbalanced changes instead.   Great and whoops!   Offering changes is okay, but we don't want him to get used to making incorrect changes!

Okay, so quick decision time!   Piper and I be contesting First Level Test 4 in four weeks time, a test that asks for two counter canter loops.   Meanwhile, Eliza would really love to get flying changes on demand for her hunter & jumper classes.   So, in her lesson this afternoon, instead of riding the soft loop along the long side holding the canter as it shifts in and out of counter canter, as they reached the quarterline between E and X, Eliza gave Piper the correct aids to do a flying change.   And VOILA! they performed a lovely perfectly correct flying change.

So, we moved from Plan A to Plan C.   Tomorrow, I will ride Piper and get to work on Plan B.   Confused?   Hopefully, Piper won't be.   :-)

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