Auto Changes

Chance was crazy good today. He has been on stomach supplements for a little over a week now, and I think they might be working! His sourness seems to be slipping away. He was calm and quiet at the jumps, and even got his lead changes completely on his own. I was amazed. Lead changes have been a bit of struggle for us. He tends to throw his shoulder in after jumping, and wants to just motor through the turn. Also, I am not great at teaching lead changes. My first horse could not swap behind due to arthritis in his hocks. He would swap the front, then I would have him trot half a step to catch up behind. Then, my second horse was completely automatic. I just had to look the direction I was headed, and he would swap. I never had to think about lead changes on him. A trainer I rode with actually warned me, “Laurel, I know you don’t have to worry about the changes on him but someday you will ride a horse that won’t give them to you, and you will have a problem.” He was right. Lead changes have been the most difficult thing for me to teach green horses because I do not have a solid foundation with them as a rider.

Anyway, Chance has been pretty sharp about changing his leads the past several months. Today, though, he swapped without me even asking. We cantered a single, then we were to trot in canter out of a diagonal line; I was unconcerned when he landed on the wrong lead since I was about to slow to a trot. To my amazement, he picked his inside shoulder up and swapped leads completely on his own! After the last jump of our course, we were on the straight away, and he again swapped before I had a chance to ask. The jump was the biggest we had jumped in a while, and since he has been a little feisty lately, I braced myself for a little rodeo on the backside. I was not expecting him to do exactly what he was supposed to, but he did! Maybe he will keep this up.

It has been a long road with him, yet he is slowly but surely coming along. I sometimes joke that he will be the perfectly schooled horse by the time he is twenty. I hope it won’t take quite that long, but Chance sure has taught me patience in horse training. I will be pretty thrilled if he decides to keep up with the automatic changes though.


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