A flying lead change is a thing that most riders of some experience should be able to ask for and ride. If you don’t know what a flying lead change is, here is a simple description:
A canter is a 3-beat gate – “bah-dah-BUMP, bah-dah-BUMP.” First beat: hind foot; second beat: other hind foot and its opposite forefoot together, third beat: the other forefoot. If the final forefoot to hit the ground is the right one, then the horse is on the “right lead.” Conversely, if the final forefoot to hit the ground is the left one, then the horse is on the “left lead.” This is a natural movement for horses; if you know what to look for you will see them doing this all the time while romping in pasture. It is a movement that keeps them balanced while they are moving. And it’s called “flying” because they change leads while cantering, rather than breaking down to a trot and picking up the canter again on the other lead. (You can see it in slow-mo here. That isn’t me, btw.)
A flying lead change while under saddle is a bit different; the horse has to be collected and responsive, the rider has to know when to ask for it and be balanced in the saddle. We want the horse on the correct lead for a variety of reasons in a variety of disciplines. Most simply, if you are cantering in the arena and going clockwise – to the right – you want to be on the right lead, and to the left, on the left lead. So, if you want to canter in a figure-8, you will want to change leads every time you go through the middle and change directions.
So. All that is to say that today, for the first time, I asked for and got flying lead changes from Angel! (I think the people on the other side of the ranch heard my “Woo-Hoo!!!) This is not something I’ve tried to do before, although I’ve wanted to. But today I felt very confident, and I just went for it. And it worked. And more than once, so it wasn’t by accident!
A bit rough, so obviously we need to put in some practice. But I was grinning from ear to ear, and Angel was very pleased with himself as well. It’s amazing what a bit of confidence can do!