Just like the title says, what are some techniques for training a horse to do flying changes?
Backstory: 5yr old WB mare. Pretty easy going and unflappable in most situations. She would do natural changes as a 3yr old out in the field. Now jumping small courses and learning the beginnings of collection. Conformationally NOT gifted with the best badonkadonk... If she had her way she would travel stretched out like a limo. We are working on this. Getting much better at the walk/trot and starting to get the concept at the canter. When we are jumping courses, she naturally lands on correct lead *maybe* 60% of the time. If she doesn't land on correct lead and I try to ask for, we are getting it around 25% of the time. I would like to improve these odds ;-) My trainer isn't too worried about it yet, says as she gets stronger she will get better.
I would just love some tips/suggestions on exercises and the concepts behind them so that I can be better about actively setting her up for success.
In your situation, with a young horse I'd say find a great hunter trainer! Kidding, but not really. For many eventers, I think the flying changes become a bit of an unnecessarily tough hurdle. There's an impression - mostly coming out of where changes fall on the training scale in dressage world vs. in H/J world - that changes are this huge difficult thing, with the result that we see an awful lot of eventers going around the show jump both off balance and on the wrong lead (or cross-canter).
The hunter folks (and some eventers too, to be fair) I've worked with teach a pretty gorgeous, correct, change. Most emphasize having the horse very straight and then pushing the haunches to the inside (smoothly - no jerking the horse's head and neck) for a clean back to front change. You'll see folks use a pole but I've always found it easier to teach the change through teaching them to move off your outside leg. Some youngsters just don't have the strength and coordination yet to do a clean change, but I usually find those the exception - far more do them fine out in the field and we just have to learn not to screw them up in the process!
Put trainer on horse. Have trainer teach horse flying changes. Get back on horse. Ask for changes.
As with most things, success rates are higher when one of you already knows what to do. Changes will come with a better quality canter, and I wouldn't push the changes until you have that taken care of. No changes are better than bad ones, or a horse that stresses about them, IMO.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what
lies with in us. - Emerson
Well, I'm an HP...
For a youngster, I like asking for simple changes. If they ate handy enough, you can just decrease the amount of trot steps in the simple change, where eventually they are giving you auto changes. As GotSpots said, make sure the horse is straight. Use your corners to your advantage. Tighter turns may give you a faster time, but at home, go deep into the corners, and school him doing nice easy hunter type courses. I've had some that got it better over a pile, while others I've even used a small X-Rail, and still others learned best Kat sticking to the basics.
When I ask, I use my outside leg behind the girth, lifting my inside rein, and I turn my hips slightly to the inside. What I hate seeing, is riders chasing their horses to "get the change" or schooling them over, and over. That is a sure way to get a horse sour, quick. Instead, just throw it in to your normal routine, or maybe in the middle of your lesson, do a FEW figure eights. (asking when you get to the rail). I also like setting a low jump up in the muddle of the arena, and doing figure eights, with the jump in the middle.
One H/J QH trainer I worked for as a teen would counter-canter her horses to build up strength prior to teaching lead changes. Once the horses were strong enough to counter-canter in good balance, (usually at least two laps of a large outdoor arena) then she would teach them changes. Once she started to teach the flying changes, every horse I saw had solid changes in two weeks or less. The only exception was a standardbred mare that took the trainer a month.
Things happen for a reason...so when I reach over and smack you upside the head, just remember...you gave me a reason!