Whoa! Check me out! I quit reading and y'all get 3 posts in 3 days! hehe
Anywho, on to my very exciting story of progress...
So I've had Midori for going on 4 years now I believe. When I got her she was really, really green. She had been a trail pony and could go down a trail quiet as can be but didn't have much steering, no back, no brakes, not much of anything other then go forward, follow the leader. So I've been working hard to install things like power steering, brakes, bending, giving, etc. etc. The one thing that I've been wanting to do on her and have made my personal goal and mission in life for the past 3 years is flying lead changes. I believe I've mentioned the elusive flying lead changes here before. We have not been able to get them. I watch her in the pasture and she doesn't generally do them naturally either. So this year I've been trying really hard to work on the basics behind the flying lead change so I can maybe, just maybe, get this goal accomplished.
For a little background I'll tell you how I've been taught to do flying lead changes. I know there are all sorts of different ways to do it, but this is the way I've been shown and the way I try to do it. You basically make a big figure 8 in the arena, going straight across the diagonal, around the short end, down the diagonal, around the short end. Say you start out on the right lead. You come around the short end and head straight down the diagonal lifting the right shoulder and kicking the hip in to the right. To ask for the lead change you then push their hip the other direction and lift up their other shoulder. With that, they should change leads, back to front, and continue on their straight line down the diagonal, around the short end, up the diagonal, repeat.
Those are the basic mechanics of the flying lead change I'm going for. I've never actually taken a "real" (aka paid for) lesson on flying lead changes, but it is what I've picked up from the short little free Tuesday night clinics I've had the opportunity to attend and wherever else I can glean information from. Funny story: as much as I'm a total book whore, for some reason I am not great at transferring techniques from book to horseback. I don't know why, but it's never helped me much to read about how to do things with my horse.
Anyways, I've been working really hard on getting her hips to move and her shoulders up the last few months. We've always had a hard time with her hips so I've been paying extra special attention to that. Every time I ride I make her move her hips in and out, in and out. I've been doing lots of forehand pivots and backing in circles too. All trying to get her moving better off my legs.
Apparently it's paid off! I still have a very looong ways to go, but in the past week I've gotten a few flies out of her. The first time I was at a friends house riding and decided, eh, what the heck, I'll give it a try. First time, NAILED it! Unfortunately I was not able to replicate it that night, but it certainly gave me some food for thought! Then tonight our drill practice was cancelled, but I had already hauled to the arena so I decided to get a good ride in anyways. After watching the boyfriend show off for a while on Sugar (she does effortless flies) I decided to take another stab at the flying lead change thing. The first one she changed the front right away and then the back a few strides later. Try number two, she nailed. Try number three, got the front, back a few strides later. Four, nailed. You noticing a pattern here? She can change from right to left pretty easy, left to right - not so easy. She is also much better moving her hip right to left, not so much left to right, so I'm not terribly surprised.
So WAY exciting that I'm getting some flying lead changes in! I'm absolutely ecstatic that I'm getting there! Unfortunately, I do still have quite a ways to go. What I didn't mention is that by the time we get the fly in we are doing mach 5 around the arena and as soon as she changes she dives into it. After the first one she takes off as soon as I put my leg back and pick up the reins. Then when I ask for the change, she changes, then drops the shoulder I'm trying to lift and totally throws herself into a turn, even though we are in the middle of the arena. The taking off part isn't a huge deal like it used to be. I know she is still under control and all I have to do is pull her into a small circle at the end of the arena and she slows right back down. Or if I wanted to I could sit down and ask her to stop and she would, on a dime. It's been a while since I've been comfortable going mach 5 on her though so it's kinda fun. Plus, I'm getting flies out of her so I'm beyond excited!
I know I've still got a loooong ways to go, but I know I'm getting closer! And any progress on this very frustrating and slow to come goal is very exciting for me! At least now I know we can. I just have to work on getting her to slow down and move her hips without racing and stay on a straight line. I think now that I'm at least getting the fly in it should be easy enough for me to break it down piece by piece and get it going better.
That's all for now. I just had to record this momentous day for posterity. :)