Dressage – How to Ride a Flying Change

Charlotte Dujardin riding a flying change

How to Ride a Flying Change

How to ride a flying change with Animalife sponsored dressage rider Tor Fenwick.

To some, a flying change may initially be experienced by complete accident, while to others it’s ‘the’ move that when trying to ride it, they seem to fail every time. In this article, Tor talks more about making sure the basics are correct before moving on to training a flying change and leaves her best advice on how to ride one.

Get the basics right first


Before you think of flying changes lets go to the basics for the horse… 

  • Ask yourself do you have a good RHYTHM?
  • Is your horse in its own BALANCE without the support of your reins?
  • Would you say he was SUPPLE?
  • Is he stiffer one way than another?
  • How’s your CONTACT?
  • Is he light or heavy in the rein?
  • Does he favour one rein more than the other?
  • Would you say your horse was responsive?
  • Does he maintain a good amount of IMPULSION in his work?
  • How crooked is he?
  • STRAIGHTNESS is the hardest element to train but once a horse stays straight between your hand and your leg you’re winning!
  • Lastly, does he struggle to take weight on the hind leg and COLLECT?

The highlight keywords are what make up your scales of training, each element is important within every movement you train and ride including a flying change.


And for the rider?

As a rider it is important to self-assess; we are all perfectionists so let’s use this to our advantage! When preparing for a flying change have a checklist in your mind to help you set up for the movement, remember a flying change happens in a split second so preparation is everything!

  • Am I central in the saddle and can I feel both of my seat bones?
  • Is my horse between my leg and my hand?
  • Is my canter in balance and do I have a good rhythm and tempo?

If you are happy with your checklist then we can prepare for the movement. 

When riding a flying change, we need to know what the aids are. A general canter aid is inside leg on the girth and outside leg slightly back behind the girth. Your outside leg asks for the canter, this is important for the flying change.

Your outside leg asks for the canter, this is important for the flying change…

In a bouncy, light rhythmic canter on the right lead you would have your inside leg on the girth (right leg) and outside leg slightly back behind the girth (Left leg) and against the horses side, this way he knows what lead you would like.

I find counting down to a change helps with timing, so I would count 1,2,3 ‘change’, this helps you keep with the rhythm of the horse.

Points to follow from a right canter lead….

  1. As you ask for the change, your inside leg (right leg on this occasion) should glide back along the horse’s side and meet your outside leg (left leg) which is already behind the girth
  2. Put your right leg against the horse, this gives him the signal to change
  3. When he is in the moment of suspension your outside (left) leg will release the ribs and slide gently forward to be on the girth
Below: Images displaying the different in leg position
Images displaying the movement in leg position needed by the rider for the horse to perform a flying change
Image credits Tara Punter PR

If your horse has created a flying change you would now be in the left lead canter. Sounds easy, doesn’t it….. The biggest key to a change is timing. The moment of suspension in a horse’s canter is the moment they change and the moment we ask, this is a matter of seconds. Practice makes perfect!

The moment of suspension in a horses canter is moment they change and the moment we ask.

Tor Fenwick

Top Tip

If you are wanting to learn flying changes or teach horse changes the best advice I can give you is to have a session riding a school master. Being able to ride an established horse teaches you so much, plus it helps your feel and timing enabling you to pass this onto other horses. As with everything in horses practice practice practice!

For more information on Tor Fenwick please visit her Facebook page – Tor Fenwick Dressage.

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