I have a potentially dumb question - do eventers not regard lead changes as a necessary skill for horses?
I ask because I'm looking for a show jumper, and have looked at several horses that are doing up to Prelim eventing, and not one of these horses has had a lead change! I've seen more videos of stadium rounds where the horse just pounds around the course on the wrong lead, or cross cantering, than I ever thought possible.
Please forgive my ignorance, but I thought that eventers, with the emphasis on the fundamentals of dressage, would be more inclined to have nicely balanced horses with good changes, than some other disciplines, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
I've almost given up looking at horses that are being marketed as eventers, since for the upper levels of jumping, changes are a must, and trying to put changes on an eight year old horse that has learned to skip the change, or forgo the change entirely, is just too daunting.
I'm honestly curious about this - since us prissy H/J people consider it such a must have, how it seems to have fallen off the radar over in eventing land????
Many eventing people believe that if you put a flying change on a horse it will make putting counter canter on the horse at a later date much more difficult. Which is also the belief in the dressage world, which is different from the Hunter world where horses have changes as early as 4 and go on to make equitation horses with counter canter.
My own personal belief is that because lead changes are not make or break many eventers do not know how to put a change on a horse. I think the number of horses who would benefit from having a change is much higher then the number of those horses that actually make it to a dressage test where they need counter canter but it usually isn't as necessary. I think that most stadium courses are set in larger arenas over simpler courses which makes a change even less necessary.
I am fine with a horse doing a balanced simple change or counter canter but I think that with many lower level riders its not as much a counter canter as a wrong lead, myself included.
That said my last horse had auto changes and my current horse has no changes.
We are not judged on it so it drops lower in the order of things you need to teach....as opposed to hunters where it is critical and there for they put them on early.
Most trainers do work on influencing what lead you land on over the fence very early and will play with the changes a bit even at the novice and training levels.
Because we have to put changes on them for dressage, and will be judged on the changes in dressage....it isn't worth making a big deal over changes early on as that can get the horse more tense for the dressage changes later. Dressage doesn't have changes until 3rd level.....which is a higher level than most event horses ever have to master. But we do have changes in eventing dressage at Intermediate...so most will begin training them at Prelim when the horse shows that they are sitting better at the canter and strong enough. The horse is not on their forehand for them in dressage like they often are for them jumping.
So bottom line.....we want our horses to be balanced, straight and forward. Changes are not critical...but a horse with solid foot work, good balance, brave and a good jump is. We will work on them...but not obsess if a horse doesn't get it all the time. There are too many more important skills to master before the changes rise higher on the list.
** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **
Potential upper level horses may not be taught to change because unlearning bad changes is very difficult. A "hunter change" (swaps in front then immediately behind) is bad, bad news in an advanced dressage test. And an "auto swap" is also a very bad thing in a prelim/intermediate dressage counter canter.
Perhaps more horses should know their changes; but "drilling" changes, and the resulting anxiety, can do a lot of damage to a dressage test.
Most eventers at prelim are capable of a decent counter canter, but more importantly should be able to land on the proper lead (thus not needing to change).
That said, you will find quite a few event horses who can do their changes...but perhaps the riders don't know how to ask. I guarantee most OTTBs know how to swap.
“A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
? Albert Einstein
There was a thread over on the dressage forum last week which would explain part of it. An UL eventer will need clean back to front dressage changes so a rider might not be inclined to rush teaching the change for the sake of stadium courses at the lower levels because it could make it more difficult to get the dressage changes later and you can get away without changes at the lower levels in stadium. It also won't prevent you from selling the horse.
Also, it could be that some event horses are harder to put the changes on and that's why they're eventing and not doing hunters.
I will say that I don't see a lot of Prelim eventers who don't have changes in stadium. More likely at the lower levels.
I own the most lovely big WB who SHOULD have been an H/J but who was not selling because he didn't have an auto change.
He had been a dressage horse and had a bit of a mental issue with how he'd been taught, so he wouldn't change at all.
I got him for a steal. We left the changes be for a year; yes, I counter cantered around bits and pieces of my (not yet Prelim) show jump courses. He's super balanced and very careful and it really didn't matter at all.
After he'd been destressed from his previous life, we put his changes back on, at age 10. It really wasn't rocket science.
My younger horse learned them when he was ready in terms of his dressage training, as he was 2nd level. He was 8 and competing at Training eventing; mostly he would land on the correct lead and or offer a swap on his own if it was needed.
It is NOT hard to teach a horse who is balanced and educated how to change. It is not instant, but it is not hard.
I thank all those buyers who came and rejected my guy for not having an auto change EVERY day.
A horse who has one "built in" or who does one cheerfully on command is certainly a nice asset, but I'd take the one with no lead change who was as brave as stink and a relentless galloper every time, given the choice.
There are just so many other things that a good event horse "needs" to have--a no-fuss lead change is on the list, but probably way down toward the bottom.
I made the mistake of teaching my pony flying changes early in her career, and then had a terrible time with the counter canter when we hit prelim because she just LOVED to swap leads. With my younger TB I didn't want to teach her until she learned to canter in balance on whatever lead she was on, and now at prelim her counter canter is easier. Does that mean at novice I counter cantered or even simple changed (!) around a SJ course? Yep!
I don't think its a high priority in most eventer's gameplans. There are too many other things event horses have to learn first!
If you were to ask Toby, he would tell you they are completely and totally unnecessary and possibly bordering on horse abuse. UNLESS done during a right lead counter canter. Then they are totally necessary and should be executed cleanly and with panache directly in front of the judge.
I have had young horses who did them naturally, without fuss, so I would take advantage of them when necessary. We still schooled far more quick, polite, simple changes and never REALLY schooled the change, other than just for fun. Horses without a natural change, like Toby, school LOTS of quick simple changes and are often ridden on their counter canter (which Toby does VERY well). Like others have said, it just isn't worth making a big deal out of. I have put good changes on horses I knew who would never go past Training, but, really, I've yet to have a horse that I've made a big effort to put good changes on for the jumping.
At some point, Toby and I will have to address real changes...but we just ignore them for the time being...we're all much happier that way.
I had the good fortune to follow a couple of riders like Boyd and Phillip in order in the stadium jumping at a few of the bigger horse trials. Phillip asked his greenie for a lead change over the fence going into the turn, and the horse stayed straight but on the incorrect lead and he asked politely until the horse changed it in the corner. I had just moved my own amateur horse up to the level (I can't remember if it was Novice or Training) and I tried to ride the stadium course just exactly as he had, and got my change in the corner just as he did! I learned from that -- that the balance is important, and teaching the horse to change the lead to achieve the balance is the way to train an event horse. I think the best trainers work on all aspects of a horse's education; I don't think I have seen very many preliminary level horses ridden by those guys that don't land on the correct lead, or change the lead as needed for the balance or question on XC. If you have seen preliminary level horses who canter around a stadium course on the same lead without changing, I'd say they are not confirmed at the level or something.
I personally find lead changes to be important, but understand there are at least two schools of thought on this
Maybe its because I take very green, unbalanced horses out to do stuff (aka jumping out of the wrong lead sucks bad) but I usually start teaching changes at the same time as cantering jumps. Meaning I'll practice changes as part of a jump school. And - knock on wood- have yet to have a problem with counter canter. I do start counter canter pretty early in part because I teach lead changes early. For example, my TB has been in work for about 7 months and is going Novice, but have already started CC in part because he has wicked awesome lead changes.
Boscoe's default answer to any question to which he doesn't know the answer is a series of tempi-changes in canter. Even if we're walking. Counter canter is challenging for him (he thinks, "why bother?"), but it certainly makes ME endeavor to ride the counter canter carefully and correctly. The direct opposite of Bonnie who has no lead change whatsoever and will counter canter ALL DAY LONG and quite happily.
I am a new to eventing eventer, and a die hard hunter rider. Lead changes have always been very important to us, as without them and without landing on the correct leads, it is literally impossible to do well. I can't imagine not having them in SJ, but find the changes pretty unnecessary on XC.
We work a lot on counter canter (at least at my barn) before and after learning changes, especially our medal and eq riders. I have ridden older super automatic horses that would rather kill themselves than hold the counter lead. I can't stand a horse that will switch leads without me at least subtly asking!! Drives me insane.
Putting changes on a well-balanced correct horse, whatever its age, is not rocket science. Honestly insisting that every prospect have auto changes already makes me really wonder if h/j trainers actually know how to put them on!
I think most riders don't drill changes becaue so many have had horses who came for h/j with auto changes that would NOT counter canter. Simply schooling landing on the correct lead o/f is just as effective and prevents the horse from associating changing direction on flat with constantly changing leads. When cc is confirmed is plenty of time to school 'asked for' changes.
Yes, some EQ horses start out as hunters who have a change drilled in, regardless of rider input, and then have to unlearn that to maintain counter canter. Why do you think they're so friggin' expensive???
I always say there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that have tried to teach counter canter to an auto changer, and those who haven't. That special little corner of hell is a rather memorable piece of real estate, and one that doesn't fade easily from memory. Thus, a new member of Counter Canter before Changes is born.
Seriously though, the only eventers of mine I teach changes too are the ones who need it for their dressage tests. I do teach them to land on the lead by asking in the air fairly early. But I don't ask for changes between jumps. By the time they are going prelim, they either have aquired a change, or land on the needed lead from being asked in the air.
However, I have also competed through prelim on a horse who wouldn't change if you cut off a leg. He had an excellent counter canter, and we could get a lOvely balanced step to the jumps from it. Really wasn't a big deal.
When I field calls from the h/j set for a youngster ,"they don't have changes" is one of the first things I say. HOnesty is the. Est policy.
This is an odd thread for me, because every eventing coach I have had has always reinforced that horses should have a change in the show jumping ring: not "auto", but that I should have the ability to ask correctly and receive a correct lead change rather than canter around on the wrong lead - and particularly not in an unbalanced, flinging body-around-the-ring sort of way. While I think that most eventers don't "drill" the changes and definitely don't want an auto-change, I do think that far more upper level eventers are teaching their students to balance their horses and ask for a clean change in the ring...and I don't think that tends to cause a poor dressage change down the road. As I start seeing better and better stadium rounds at all levels, I think you'll continue to see more eventers have a basic change just as they start being more balanced and straight around their turns.
I'm honestly curious about this - since us prissy H/J people consider it such a must have, how it seems to have fallen off the radar over in eventing land????
Thanks in advance!
Some have changes, some don't. Some can, and some just plain WON'T. I evented a fantastic little prelim TB mare that did. not. do. lead. changes. EVER. We even went so far as to have the guru of lead changes, a close friend and reining trainer, try to work on her. Nada. Beautiful counter canter, and could jump six ways to Sunday over ANYTHING off either lead. Just never saw the point (and hated dressage, anyway).
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what
lies with in us. - Emerson
I believe it was Touch of Class, Show Jumping Olympic individual and team gold medalist that never had a lead change. So I think the H/J obsession with changes is overrated.
A friend of mine just came home from a Buck Davidson clinic, and just this morning she was telling me that one of the things Buck talked about is that he has started intentionally schooling horses to jump out of a counter canter. The reason? When you counter canter to a fence your brain is very much occupied with the balance and quality of canter--which is exactly what you SHOULD be thinking about. A quality canter is a quality canter and there is no reason a decent rider shouldn't be able to create a quality canter to jump from while counter cantering.
That said I don't worry much about them. I find that with the youngsters--especially the ones with good enough natural balance to become upper level horses they get there without much fuss if you just let it happen. Drilling is not only time consuming when we don't have much time because of the variety of information we have to teach but also on the bit hotter horse usually preferred for eventing it can be counter productive. On my current youngster we talk about them a little because he's already been shown them by the highly qualified pro who started him.
The other reason I think the changes is overrated in Jumperland is after watching an Emerging Athletes clinic last year I can't tell you how many of those kids were obsessing about the change, got it, then promptly went around the corner with a shoulder popped out. Saw it happen in more rounds than it didn't. So yeah, if you're going let the horse be crooked around a turn it might be important to have a change. But that's kinda sad.