I have worked on many things other than lead changes to make lead changes easier for Eli. A few years ago, he had a great deal of apprehensiveness and tension related lead changes (this is putting it mildly), so for many, many months I did nothing or next to nothing about him not changing leads while on course. I also never expected him ever to be able to change leads regularly. I don’t know the cause of the tension, but he came that way about a lot of things, not just lead changes. Even once I bought him, I didn’t try asking for lead changes for over a year, unless they were simple lead changes. I did other things instead that would hopefully set him up for lead changes. Here is a list:
Keeping forward momentum
Inside leg to outside rein as much as possible at the canter (Should be always, right? Well, sometimes I don’t do it. So there.)
Work on staying straight, balanced, and off the forehand
Practicing cantering across the diagonal, focusing on staying straight and relaxed, and then ask for a downward transition in the corner
Counter canter (this is probably the most important puzzle piece)
Transitions & sharpening aids related to those transitions, especially the upward transitions
Cantering a figure 8 with a simple change of lead
Address any physical issues that may contribute to difficulty changing leads. Or rather, get the veterinarian to address these issues.
I never school changes on the flat, unless I have a canter pole or two, and even then only very rarely do I do that as an exercise. This is true on any horse, not just Eli. Obviously this would not be possible were our discipline dressage, but it’s not. Up until Eli, I had been privileged enough to ride many, many horses, including my own other than Eli, who had natural, easy, or “auto” changes, and for them, schooling changes wasn’t necessary at all.
So now, after years (talk about going slow), I have a horse that can be asked for a lead change and does a lead change. It is still ugly and not 100%, but a big part of that is my absolutely appallingly bad timing when it comes to lead changes generally that I have always struggled with.
But wait, I have video evidence!
Gotta love the tail flip even over a 2′ fence.
Does this mean I have to tackle the spray bottle issue now? I am running out of things to undo on this horse. It’s a pretty good feeling.
P.S. This is not a how-to, unless you are me and your horse is Eli. This is just what has worked for us.