Riding is full of frustrations but right now Starlight and I are in one of those all-too-rare and wonderful epochs where we are actually making all kinds of progress. I almost hate to say it lest I jinx us.
The canter has improved immensely which makes things like Flying Changes feel so much more possible. Somehow the Changes have been a bit elusive – we would find them and then lose them somehow. But now I think we are going to get and KEEP them.
We have spent months working on improving the canter. Lots of counter canter (not Star’s favorite exercise, but it was good for her). Lots of transitions trot/canter/trot. Walk/canter/walk. Shoulder-in and haunches-in at the canter. Forward and back at the canter (lengthen and shorten the stride). Moving the hips and shoulders around until I could control the speed, bend, angle, etc. fairly easily most of the time (notice the caveats – sometimes none of this works). We also worked to make sure she was quick off the aid to the canter (not needing to “think about it for awhile,” or requiring several aids to pick up the canter.
After establishing a nice collected canter, we do a half-volte (half 10 meter circle), and on our way back to the rail, half halt on the outside rein, move the shoulders towards the new lead, and ask for the new lead. These steps happen fairly quickly; if I delay, things do not go well. Sometimes things don’t go well anyway. Try, try again.
After the change, I immediately praise her verbally and pat her with the inside hand, canter a few strides, and then walk. She’s still new to it so she needs lots of praise and a short walk break to make the point of “see, what a smart girl you are! And wasn’t that easy? Now you get to walk, yahoo!” Hopefully she decides she loves to change leads (not just randomly, but when asked, one hopes).