Thursday, January 19, 2012


Flying changes that is.

I really try to be a good student, do my homework and progress.  I took it seriously at the last clinic when Debbie told me I needed to work on my flying changes every time I rode Sera. 

I started at home with the simple changes - canter, walk, canter.  Making sure Sera was really round and through and not inverting or getting stiff in her neck, back or jaw when I asked... I did them all over... long side, diagonally across the arena, figure 8s, half circles etc.  I did them with various canter strides in between too.  Sometimes 5 strides, sometimes 10 strides.  I made them as unpredictable as possible so she'd really be listening to my seat and legs.

And every once and a while, I asked for a flying change.  If she got stuck and it didn't happen, no big deal, I continued on with my simple changes.  I'd ask for a flying change again somewhere in the middle of all the simple changes.

I got a flying change on each side.  They were kicking out and not beautiful but I got them and I was excited.  I called Rex and left her a babbling, incoherent voice mail I was so excited.

I had a ride with Rex that weekend and told her (coherently) how I did them at home... she asked me to recreate it.  I did and I got the flying changes again. 

However, I had a big light bulb moment. 

This work is new to me and I've never ridden Third Level before... all this work and all these new maneuvers are as new to me as they are to Sera.  No one trains her - I take lessons but she's never been schooled by a professional on her back. I've never ridden a school master horse to teach me how it is supposed to go.  We are really the blind leading the blind as we move up in Dressage. 

It was discovered while riding with Rex and our discussions in my lesson that I was thinking about simple changes when asking for flying change.  I was focused on half halts and slowing Sera down for the change like I do when I am collecting her to ask for a walk from canter.

Rex told me to stay forward - don't slow, keep her over her back, deep AND keep her forward through the change.   Sera still kicked out but it was one kick vs 3 or 4, the change occurred faster, smoother and it was more on my aids.  The canter stayed the same rhythm before, during and after the change. 

Ohhhhhhhh!   *ding*  And there is your light bulb!

Probably elementary to those who have schooled them and ridden them before... to me, it was so exciting!  Like Helen Keller asking Anne Sullivan for the word "water".   I LOVE learning the new movements and how to ride them effectively.   

I had a clinic yesterday with Debbie and I hoped she would see improvement too -  that I wasn't "imagining" our flying changes had improved.  I do have a pretty active imagination....

I explained to her my light bulb moment with Rex and she also had a moment of raised eyebrows as well..."oh, I didn't realize you thought to ask for them that way but it makes sense that you did".... she asked me for a flying change.... and another... and another... I must've done 6 or 7.  I've never ridden that many all in a row....I didn't think I could.  I didn't do my simple changes to warm Sera up either.   

Guess what?  I did them!  Got changes every time!  Debbie pushes me to ride harder and to ride better and that is a good thing!

She did see improvement...less kicking, quicker reaction... she says riding at Third Level this summer is very attainable.  I really may get my USDF Bronze medal this year. 

I asked if she would get on Sera so I could watch her do some changes.  Debbie was happy to do so, she's never been on Sera before - we were 3/4 done with our ride time, Sera was warmed up, working and going well. 

Yeeeowch!  When a trainer gets on the horse that only you ride?  Your horse shows all your faults and weaknesses in your riding.  Horses don't lie.  Debbie didn't do any changes but she certainly zero'd in on my weaknesses! 

It was good for me to really see Sera worked correctly.  While I truly thought I was making the corrections and adjustments in my riding the way Debbie was asking me to - I clearly was not .  I'm too "nice"....not that I need to be mean or iron fisted - I need to be much more firm.

I'm not doing myself or Sera justice if I let things be "good enough".  I need to expect more from myself and from my little red-headed mule.  I understood - she can do the work - I can do the work - it was a really great visual to have Debbie ride so I could clearly picture what is needed. 

Sera has to be more committed to the outside rein - I'm to practice letting go of the inside rein for longer periods of time - seeing how long we can go with Sera truly in that outside rein.

Sera has to be able to move forward in collection.  No more eeking the reins out little by little. 

Sera has to be hot off my leg.  No more blowing my leg off... she must respond exactly when I ask.

I got back on after Debbie tuned Sera up with the above concepts and yes... the difference was big.  It will only help us in progressing onward and upward.  It was a great ride and another really great light bulb moment.  I've got a lot of homework til the next clinic Feb. 8th.

I love these moments ... and I absolutely love my mare for having so much try in her and working so incredibly hard.


Laura Crum said...

Wow--that is really cool. It seems like you and Sera are learning so much. When I taught flying changes to my little cowhorses, we would usually speed them up for the change if they had any trouble with it. I don't know if that would be OK in dressage, but if you are curious you could try it at home and see if it helps with the kicking out. A lot of horses WILL change smoothly if you speed them up (briefly) to a hand gallop, when they won't change, or do it in a very cranky way, if you don't speed them up.

Shanster said...

I will try it tho' my "to-do" list just got a lot longer! grin.

Susan said...

I haven't been around in a while (at least on the blogger scene), but am happy I got to read this post. It's waayy cool!

DebH said...

You are and will improve and its because you keep trying. So much pride in your Sera, but you be extra proud of yourself for all that commitment! You have such determination and open mindedness that will have you getting better and better. I would so love to see this in person, watching your horse perform but watching You enjoy your sport so much. I think we'll be reading about you in the Leaders circle someday!