For my blogs this year I am looking at some of the movements that we see at higher levels of competition and reviewing what is desired from the movement, and some of the problems that can occur.
This month I am looking at the sequence of flying changes at every stride performed by Edward Gal at the Dutch Dressage Championships in 2021. The full video of the test can be seen here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzwxmnhGWvA&t=274s. The particular section I am discussing in this blog is a sequence of flying changes made at every stride which start at 4 minutes 15 seconds. For reference, below is the definition of a flying change from the FEI rules.
4.8 Flying Change of leg. The flying change is performed in one (1) stride with the front and hind legs changing at the same moment. The change of the leading front and hind leg takes place during the moment of suspension. The aids should be precise and unobtrusive.
Flying Changes of leg can also be executed at every 4th, 3rd 2nd or at every stride. The Horse, even in the series, remains light, calm and straight with lively impulsion, maintaining the same rhythm and balance throughout the series concerned. In order not to restrict or restrain the lightness, fluency and ground cover of the flying changes in series, enough impulsion must be maintained.
The main issue that can be seen with these flying changes is the impulsion being blocked by the rider’s hands. Impulsion has become the main force that dressage focuses on to the detriment of other qualities. Many horses now perform a flying change with weight in their forehand, disengaged haunches and a lack of lightness. This forces the horse to make the flying change by pushing up from their fore hand and swinging their haunches from side to side, not straight and effortlessly flowing as they should be. In a flying change the rhythm and tempo of the canter should not change and the horse’s legs should appear to switch effortlessly under their body with no upward bounce.
The issues with this sequence of flying changes begins with the turn on to the diagonal. At this point there is a backwards action on the inside rein, and the horse swings it’s head to the right (4 minutes 18 seconds). This is immediately followed by a heavy action on the left rein causing the horse to twist its nose to the left. These aids take the horse off balance immediately prior to the flying change sequence.
Throughout the sequence of changes, the rider maintains a backward pressure on the reins. This blocks the horse from coming through correctly with its hind legs, placing weight into the forehand and causing the horse to make the transition from one lead to the other by swing its haunches from side to side. (A) (B) (C) (D)
The rider continues to contract the horse through its head, neck and shoulders with a restrictive hand through the sequence of steps. This prevents the horse from flowing through with its hind legs and after a few strides, the 3-beat canter breaks down into a 4-beat canter. The horse makes more exaggerated movement in each stride, bouncing up from its front legs rather than swinging smoothly through. (E) (4 minutes 25 seconds).
Correct flying changes should be straight and flow through the horse’s body from the hind legs. This gives a smooth transition between the strides where the leg sequence changes effortlessly under the horse without the forehand leaping off the ground and preserves the 3-beat rhythm.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
Please CLICK HERE to read more about Horses and Riders I have been able to help with Classical Dressage Training