For the first time in my life – EVER! – the very first time, in all of the years that I have been riding dressage – I DID CHANGES EVERY 4 STRIDES across the diagonal and then every 3 STRIDES across the diagonal!
Figuring out how to count is a critical component prior to attempting a series of flying changes. The actual words used to count strides can be individualized. I settled on counting using the words “and, change” as the last two strides. My instructor started me with the words “prep, change”, so that I would actually prepare my horse for the change and switch my seat and leg on the word count “change”. For changes every 4 strides, my instructor would chant: “One, two, prep, change", and, in theory, I would ride 4 strides of canter and execute a flying change.
First attempt, counting myself: Left lead canter across the diagonal, flying change right, counted the 4 strides, flying change left, counted 4 strides but had 5, flying change right . . . ran out of arena space and trotted through the corner! Second attempt, I stopped trying to count myself, and just listened to my instructor’s commands: I managed 3 changes across the diagonal every 4 strides and kept cantering through the corner!
Tracking right, I had more problems. After the first change, I managed to count 4 strides and change, but then Universo decided to take over and change after 3 strides. So that meant I had to learn how to hold a stride when I felt him try to change before I asked. This is challenging because as I count to 4 and feel my horse start to change, I have to hold the stride on the lead, but then immediately ask for the change. Anyway, I DID IT! Which means, we cantered 3 strides, did a bounce for the 4th stride, because he wanted to change, and then did a flying change. Yeah, me!
So far the stats are: Universo - Two diagonals where he made a decision and Nancy - Two diagonals riding every change on her aids.
Then, apparently because my instructor has more faith in me than I do, she told me to execute flying changes every 3 strides across a different diagonal, starting on my left lead. I didn’t really have too much time to think about it, which is a good thing. My instructor, Kris Barrett, just told me that she would be counting: “Back, Prep, Change” and that I needed to power canter through the corner for my first change, that I had to look up the entire time, and that I had to move my hips (the word “back” was short-hand for “sit back” to remind me to collect my horse after a change). So, I picked up left lead canter on the short side, powered through the corner, and made my first change to right lead . . . Kris called out, “Back, Prep, Change” and I changed to left lead, and she yelled, “Back, Prep, CHANGE” and I did, and she yelled louder, “Back, PREP, CHANGE, and I did, and she yelled incredibly loud (because I was close to the corner) “BACK, PREP, CHANGE” and I did, (because I was not thinking but reacting), to my right lead (Number 5, if anyone is counting), and then she yelled “WALK. You are done!”
I am pretty sure that I was not breathing the entire time, but I was looking up at my point and my hips were swinging! The amazing thing is that my changes were on a straight line, although I was not aware of that, since I have the tree outside the arena imprinted on the back wall of my brain and the feeling of the strides and the changes in my body. No thoughts at all.
After a sitting trot stretch cool down, that was all lovely and swingy through the back, we stopped for a nice horse hug round the neck.