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How To Help A Horse That Gets Nervous When Anticipating Flying Changes

Panel Expert: Bernie Traurig

Submitted by member: Bonnie

I have an OTTB (off the track thoroughbred) that is perfect on the flat and jumping lines but the minute you try to do a diagonal jump or even just a simple lead change he takes off. I have tried simple changes and that doesn’t help either. I’m wondering what I can do to help him get retrained to enjoy lead changes and not think he is going to get yelled at or beat when doing them even if he messes up. Please help! Thank you

Answer by Bernie

Sounds like you have a horse that gets very nervous when he thinks of having to do a flying change, which usually is amplified of course on the diagonal, especially if one has asked for them repeatedly on the diagonal with a horse that has a tendency to miss and get nervous.

So here are some suggestions. I would forget about asking for the flying change for awhile and teach your horse to counter canter really well and quietly hold the counter canter on the diagonal when flatting. Then set a cavaletti or small jump on the diagonal about 1/3 of the way out of the corner so you have 2/3 of the ring left to settle him into the counter canter (encourage him to land on the outside lead so you can counter canter). Once the counter canter is perfected in this way, you can occasionally ask for the flying change. Then repeat with several counter canter corners depending on his anticipation. If he’s still nervous, alternate counter canter corners with a simple change through the walk.

I had a similar situation way back with a wonderful TB called “Circuit Breaker.” When I acquired him he was “fried” from someone insisting on the lead change, which was quite difficult for him. I almost never asked for a lead change and in the end he could counter canter in a tea cup
beautifully and perfectly relaxed. He went on to win several championships in the Working Division and many Hunter Classics with this formula. We have a video on of him competing in a Working Hunter Classic at Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Ohio called: “A Classic Hunter Round From Back In The Day.” Click here to view it.

I have done a video topic that will give you several tips on calming down the anticipation you are experiencing called, “Improving Your Flying Changes.” Click here to view it.

Here is another link to a topic I did on the fundamentals of flying changes which will help you improve his flying changes. Click here to view “Fundamentals of Flying Changes.”

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Bernie Traurig

As a Horseman, Bernie is renowned for not only his riding talents but for his teaching and coaching gifts. As a competitor, Bernie has represented the United States Equestrian Team both at home and abroad on many occasions and reached the top of the sport in all 3 of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing.After amassing 60 years worth of training and riding techniques and experiences with thousands of horses, Bernie is driven to give back to the sport that has given him so much fulfillment and success.

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