Flying Lead Changes by Sandy Collier
Newly Released Training Video: Demystifying Lead Changes with Sandy Collier
NRCHA & AQHA World Champion Sandy Collier reveals her secrets to teaching, fine-tuning, and maintaining the mystifying lead change.
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All of my corrections are to get the horse more soft and supple, and rarely intimidate or scare a horse.
The other thing is, I never want to discipline a horse in the maneuver itself. In other words, If I am stopping and the horse doesn’t stop, I will get him stopped and them I will back him up partially. I will bump him in the shoulders. I will do whatever it is I am going to do, but I will never so this in the stop.
The same thing goes for the turn around. I will take the horse away from the turn around if his shoulders weren’t moving. I will stop turning, side-pass him, make his shoulders move, drive him around and bump his head down.
All of my corrections are designed to make what a horse is trying to perform easier for him to do.
Flying Lead Changes
American Quarter Horse Journal June 2005
AQHA Professional Horsewoman Sandy Collier
Shows how two-tracking can help teach flyling lead changes.
Article by Sandy Collier with Tonya Ratliff-Garrison
Flying Lead Changes are one of the only things horses do naturally. Loose horses don’t slide. They don’t back up. They don’t spin. But they change leads all day long.
It becomes a problem, though, when we try to get horses to change leads on command. But we can return to the simplicity of lead changes if we get back down to its basics and put it in perspective.
A really good exercise for teaching flying lead changes and for moving off the leg is to move obliquely or diagonally across the arena, in a forward motion.
This involves two-tracking your horse first at a trot and then at a lope, and asking him to change leads about two-thirds across the arena but still move in the original direction.
The better a horse gets this exercise, the easier it is to ask for a flying lead change.
We need to be able to move the horse’s rear end around his front end. Teaching him a simple turn on the forehand is a good idea. On a forehand turn to the left, the horse’s nose should be straight or turned slightly left. This keeps the horse’s shoulders in one place while you move the read end to the left. You don’t want those shoulders moving to the left while you are moving the rear end around.
By practicing this exercise, you will prevent the new lead shoulder from going anywhere when you push the rear end over in the lead change.
Starting in the corner of the arena, I usually go diagonally from 8 o’clock to 3 o’clock. I don’t go straight across, like from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock. That’s too hard on the horse. That is key in this exercise is not letting your horse run a shoulder too much in the direction you’re going.
This one thing I insist upon before I do this exercise that my horse is able to perform good lead departures. This means that I can tip my horse’s nose slightly right and push its rear end right and pick up my right lead on a straight line with no trotting steps.
When a horse has learned to two-track well at a lope, he has solved one big lead change problem of running through the bridle when he feels your leg asking him to change. Now you can move him over instead of the horse taking that cue to mean go forward. Riding in a snaffle bit with two hands, I use my left rein against his neck and lead him with my right rein. I use my left leg at the cinch to ask the horse to two-track across the pen on the right lead from 8 o’clock to 2 o’clock. My horse’s rear end and nose are tipped to the left at the beginning. As he improves, I will be able to hold horse’s body in a straight line.
While I move diagonally across the pen, I want to control all of my horse’s body parts. You can either think of this as keeping our horse parallel with the side of the fence, or perpendicular to the end fence. You wan to keep your horse’s body in as straight a line as you can.
Whenever I get to where I feel I want to change leads, usually, two-thirds of the way across the arena, I hold my left rain against his neck softly, press him with my right foot behind the cinch and push the rear end to the left.
The most important part of this exercise is that you don’t allow the horse to cnange direction when he changes his lead. That’s where people run amok because they let the horse change direction, which means the front end changes but the rear end doesn’t. This is what we call the horse dropping its shoulder.
While continuing to move right, my hands have never changed position. My right rein continues to guide the horse to the right while my left hand stays against his neck to keep the left shoulder from dropping and going left.
If my horse has performed as I asked him and changed leads, I will break him down and pat him.
If he didn’t, I will break him down and push his rear end all the way around to the left with my right leg while holding his front end straight (a left turn on the forehand) and in one place because that was the part that didn’t move or he would have changed to the left lead.
I will just reaffirm that when I pick up the reins and I push with my leg, his rear end needs to move over.
We would then move back to the lead departure and do the exercise again.
The more the horse does this exercise, the better he will get and the more control you will be able to assert.
AQHA Professional Horseman Sandy Collier is the only woman to win the National Reined Cow Horse association World Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity Open championship.
To learn more of Sandy's secrets to effortless flying lead changes, visit her horse training videos page. In "Sandy's Magic Bag of Tricks," Sandy demonstrates the drills her horse must master before she asks for a flying lead change.