Can’t Prepare for the Despair

{This title comes from Paul. I was exasperated about my late flying changes, and he said this little gold nugget and then stated he found my next blog title. And here we are.}

During the last clinic at Lost Hollow Farm, the conversation of flying changes came up during the lunch hour. There were a few regular students sharing their stories, and it appeared everyone had one. [First red flag] They would laugh about the horse that had to do an air above the ground as preparation, or who would buck before, during, and after the change. I have had multiple people remind me it took Andrea three different times to teach her up-and-coming Grand Prix horse, Maya, the changes. [Second red flag]

At the time of this conversation, Kelso and I were still at the stage of “let’s see what happens” in regards to the changes. We were thrilled if we got one and didn’t have a care in the world. Fast forward five weeks; we still seem to be at that stage. But not intentionally.  We now have cares in the world. Paul warned me that things tend to fall apart when the changes are started [canter-walks, counter canter, our lives.]

He was definitely right when he said you can’t always prepare for the despair that changes can cause. But while going through the Parelli program, I had five different instructors try to help me get changes. I should have been a little more prepared than I was…

I know they will come. I know they are tough. I know Kelso is teaching me lessons. But sometimes the irrationality takes over and I am convinced we are doomed to second level for the rest of our lives. I am also aware there are people who work on changes for years and we have been working on them for five weeks. Bear with the melodrama.

The funny thing about changes is that, like every dressage movement, they try to embrace how horses move and play in all their glory. Meaning wild horses with zero training can and will do them. Horses with very little bend, collection, or strength can be change machines. [First case in point: Kelso and I can get them bareback and bridle-less. Second case in point: Hunter Ponies. aka Change monsters.]

And another thing! The culmination of flying changes, the one tempis, were considered a circus move. They were invented by Baucher, a French circus rider, and it took a bit for them to be accepted as a valid dressage move. Despite their previous circus-like reputation, their basis of learning single changes do not create feelings akin to being at a circus. Unless you only go to the freak show part of the circus where all you feel is confused and overwhelmed.

Kelso and I have learned various exercises to learn flying changes, which I have outlined a bit in my previous blogs. In addition to trying them from a counter-canter circle to a true-canter circle, I also experimented with really collecting him up and encouraging him to change and then putting him on a 10m circle. He is a quick and clever little dude so the reason for the 10m circle was to keep him cantering on the same lead; he could rapid fire switch and it was impossible for me to keep him on any consistent lead. I told him the tempis must wait. This week we also experimented with extending his counter-canter, they collecting it and immediately encouraging him to switch. This pretty much turned into galloping around the arena after a few tries.

What do I mean by encouraging him to switch? At this point in the game, we are too green to changes to have any specific aids for him. He wouldn’t understand them if I gave them in a specific moment, and he would get pretty anxious with me spurring him, quickly changing his bend and my hips, or using the whip. Instead, I keep him as straight as possible and slowly switch my hips while really collecting his canter. I aim to do this near a corner so the curve will also urge him to switch, or by going on a circle like I talked about above. If he does get stuck, I can tap his haunches with the whip to tell him I want him to change them. I can only do this gets stuck but is level-headed enough to listen to my aids without just bursting forward or getting anxious.

Our challenge of the week has been him consistently having late changes from the left lead to the right lead. He beautifully changes to the other direction, but he can get pretty tense switching to the right. His m.o. has been getting pretty heavy in the hand and coming above the vertical when we try to switch to the right lead from the left and then bursting through any aids after I try to collect him. We then revert back to transitions to remind him he can’t lean on my hands and to relax by loosening his back.

They will come. Even if they come slowly but surely. Oh, so slowly. To which Paul would tell me, “Patience young grasshopper.”

Hopping off to fixing my changes,

Erin and the WP

 

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