How to Do a Flying Lead Change

Three Parts:Preparing your horseDoing a simple lead changeDoing a flying lead change

When riding in a hunter course and concentrating on so many things at the same time, it helps if you know how to ask for a flying lead change. A flying lead change is when a horse switches from one lead to another without breaking the canter. Until your horse can do them automatically, follow these simple steps that will have your horse do them.

Part 1
Preparing your horse

  1. 1
    Get your horse warmed up and ready to ride.
  2. 2
    Place a single trot pole in the center of the ring or riding area, parallel to the long side.
  3. 3
    Practice a lot of figure eights at the trot. Some horses are not always trained to do flying lead changes. To train the horse, start by doing figure eights; canter one circle, slow down in the center to a walk, then go the other direction at the canter. Doing this helps the horse figure out that it is to switch leads when given a certain signal.
  4. 4
    Do a lot of bending exercises. For example, spiraling in at the trot, 5 meter circles, etc.
  5. 5
    Warm your horse up with a canter or two both ways. Ask it to change direction normally (at a walk or trot).
  6. 6
    Determine your horse's stronger lead. For the purpose of clarity in this explanation, the article will say the horse's stronger lead is its left.

Part 2
Doing a simple lead change

While your horse is still green with flying changes, always warm up with a simple lead change or two, as described here.

  1. 1
    Ride to the right, canter a circle, then do a figure eight. About 5 to 6 strides before the pole in the center, bring your horse down to trot, then once it trots over the pole, bend it to the left, push its haunches in with your inside (right) leg, then ask for a canter on the left lead. This is a simple lead change.
  2. 2
    After a few time of trotting 5 to 6 strides before the pole, make the simple change in three to four strides, then again once it gets the feel of that, decrease it to one or two strides. You want your horse to be strong with simple lead changes in one or two trot steps, before you attempt a flying change.
  3. 3
    Keep practicing until the horse is comfortable with this. Once your horse is strong with simple changes with one or two trot steps, you can move on to flying changes. Similar to when you do a simple change, in a flying lead change you want to ask your horse to switch its leads over the pole.

Part 3
Doing a flying lead change

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    Canter around the ring with a strong, collected canter.
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    Ride across the diagonal of the arena.
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    Keep your inside leg pressed gently to the girth and your outside leg pressed gently just behind the girth.
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    Cross the pole or centre line and swap the positions of your legs, so that your new inside leg is on the girth and your new outside leg is behind the girth.
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    Bend your horse gently through its entire body, not just the shoulder, while keeping the canter in a controlled and steady pace.
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    Keep your hands gentle throughout the transition and allow your horse to stretch through its back. Younger horses especially may have difficulty with this if they hollow their backs.
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    Continue the canter through the corner regardless of the lead. If the horse did not change its canter lead, return to the trot at either A or C and begin again on the next long diagonal.
    • The most common reason a flying change will fail is because the horse will misinterpret the aids as an invitation to increase the speed rather than an aid to keep the horse balanced into the hand.
  8. 8
    If the horse doesn't get it when you go over the pole, bring it back to a trot, then ask for a canter on the correct lead, then circle over the pole with the correct lead.
    • Once your horse is 99 percent correct with its flying changes over the pole, remove the pole.
    • When the horse gets the change, continue to canter for a few seconds, then bring it down to a walk and give it its head (for praise).


  • Keep your horse balanced and steady throughout the transition.
  • You can help your horse pick up the correct leads by slowing them to a trot and picking up the canter in the next corner of the arena.
  • Bear in mind that your horse may not learn this skill in one ride. Keep practicing. If it is your first time doing a flying change, don't worry if you make a mistake. Keep trying. Counting the beat of the canter can also help you learn to know when to ask for the change.
  • Do not lean to the inside. Don't shift too much weight into the inside stirrup.
  • Keep an equal amount of weight on each stirrups to be successful.
  • Give the horse lots of walk breaks.
  • If the horse is having a hard time changing it, over bend while you're going over the pole.
  • Do not push your horse!


  • Don't lose you temper or get upset. Your horse can sense it! Keep calm and keep trying.
  • Horses are unpredictable, so be careful and have someone with you always.
  • Don't jump if your horse/pony does not like jumps! But your horse/pony needs to be trained out of this. However, if you don't jump/ don't like jumping, that is okay.

Things You'll Need

  • Tack
  • 2 wings
  • 1 to 2 poles

Article Info

Categories: Horse Training