After reading this topic and posting it, I thought, what the heck, and just went out to try it with Blacky. And we actually got one flying leadchange!
If I was to describe the method we tried, it would be something like this:
Canter Lead Changes through small figure Eights
- the horse needs to be able to make canter-walk or canter-trot on an easy voice/bodylanguage cue
- you need to be able to walk, trot and canter circles next to your horse, both by running on his inside and his outside of the circle.
- You need to be able to walk, trot and canter in the shape of an eight without you changing sides (for example, your run on his right side all the time, so one loop of the eight you run on the inside, the other on the outside.
After some brain-wrecking on how to make the easiest serpentines, I decided that it would be best if we would just make eights all the time because that way we would use both canters equally, and because that way you stay in the same area repeating the figure all the time on that spot so that Blacky could anticipate on it.
It's a small eight, spanning the short side of the arena (so a small volte from be to X, and one from X to E, crossing over on X to make the eight). That way you can use the sides of the arena as an extra help to let the horse turn into another volte again. For Blacky and me it works better to do it in the middle in the arena and not next to the short end rail because aiming a canter circle towards a corner of the fence slows him down too much.
First you let your horse get used to the pattern by walking the eight, and for example stopping on the X a couple of times before walking into the other direction. Then trotting the eight, and you can also trot one circle, take a few steps of walk on the X and then trot into the new direction again. And then canter! First with the walk in between, but you can also let the horse figure it out on his own.
I did the latter with Blacky.
I just asked him to canter the small circle and then asked him to turn into the other circle. Blacky got a bit puzzled with all his legs, did some walk/trot steps and then started the other canter. We repeated that a couple of times and then suddenly he made a flying canter change on the X!
I rewarded him with almost all the food I had of course.
Then I thought it could be easier if I asked him to come from canter to walk on the X and then ask to canter off again in the new direction. Wrong, it became too complex, because of the slowing down I came too much to the back, Blacky bent his body too much around me and started the new circle in the old (now counter canter) lead. Which was a pretty interesting result too, but not what we aimed for.
So I guess I'll just let Blacky figure it out on his own from now on. But it was great to see him let those legs fly all over the place. Apparently he has been practicing during his holiday because the difficult canterside went way much better too. The only thing that seems to get him in the wrong (counter) canter is me, because if I am too far to his rear when running on the outside next to him, he will turn his head towards me a bit and to the rail and start off in a counter canter. So I really need to be next to his shoulder when running in the middle, and in front of his shoulder when running on the outside, and on the outside keep my outside arm stretched forward to show Blacky the outside perimeter of the circle, and when I walk on the inside I need to keep my inside arm open and a bit forward in order to ask him to bend his head towards the inside now.
So on X my movements are actually the following (now I come to think about it
): when I run on the outside and will be on the inside after the X, the outside arm that was stretched forwards towards Blacky's head in order to let him turn the volte away from me, will move away from his head towards the inside of the nex circle, asking him to turn in and change into the new direction.