Never Miss a Post

Join 6,000+ subscribers and get our latest articles via email.

How to Ride Flying Changes in Sequence (Tempi Changes)

flying changes in sequence tempi changes dressage


One of the most impressive advanced dressage exercises is flying changes in sequence, commonly known as tempi changes.

They look as though the horse is skipping along in canter as he changes from one canter lead to another, usually on the diagonal or down the centerline.

In this guide, we explain how to ride flying changes in sequence. 

What are tempi changes?

The term “tempi changes” refers to the exercise where a sequence of flying changes of canter lead are put together.

In the most advanced dressage tests, flying changes are performed at every fourth, third, second, or at every canter stride.

What the judge is looking for

When judging tempi changes, the judge wants to see the following:

  • The flying changes are correct.
  • The changes are straight and balanced.
  • The horse remains light and uphill.
  • There are no signs of tension.
  • The horse shows good impulsion.
  • The rhythm and balance throughout the series of changes is the same.

Also, the number of changes executed in the sequence must be correct as demanded by the test. 

For example, in the Grand Prix Special, the rider is asked to execute nine flying changes of leg at every second stride on the MXK diagonal line. So, the rider must be able to count the required number of strides accurately and perform the changes accordingly.

When can you begin riding flying changes in sequence?

Before you can start teaching your horse tempi changes, there are a few prerequisites that must be in place:

  1. You must be able to ride correct, single flying changes of canter lead on both reins on the diagonal line and on the long side of the arena, from true canter to counter-canter and vice versa.
  2. Your horse must be able to make single changes on a 20-meter circle and on the short side of the arena.
  3. Your horse must remain completely straight during a single flying change.
  4. The horse must maintain the same degree of collection and cadence throughout the flying change.

When you begin teaching your horse tempi changes, always start slowly with four-time changes and work your way up to the more challenging one-time changes. If you rush things, your horse will become confused and he’ll probably get tense, too.

Preparatory exercise

Before you begin working on riding tempi changes, here’s an exercise to prepare you and your horse.

Exercise 1 – Flying changes on the digonal line between the quarter lines

In this simple exercise, you’re going to ride single flying changes, followed by a transition to walk and then back into the canter.

The idea of bringing the horse back to a walk between the changes is to keep him calm, relaxed, balanced, and attentive to your aids.

Step 1

On the right rein, ride down the quarter line in the collected canter. Make sure that the horse is straight and relaxed.

Step 2

When the horse is balanced on the quarter line, ride a diagonal line to the opposite quarter line.

At the beginning of the diagonal, ride a flying change to the left.

Step 3

Now, ride a transition to walk for a couple of strides before resuming left canter and joining the opposite quarter line.

Step 4

When the horse is balanced on the quarter line, ride a diagonal line back to the other quarter line, again making a flying change to the right at the beginning of the diagonal.

Immediately after the change, ride a transition to walk, and then resume right canter and join the quarter line.

Step 5

Follow the quarter line to the end of the arena and repeat the exercise on the other rein.

Flying changes every four strides

Once you and your horse have mastered the above exercise, you can then move on to riding flying changes every four strides.

Exercise 2 – Introducing tempi changes every four strides

Basically, you’re going to ride the same exercise as above, but after you’ve made your first flying change at the beginning of the diagonal line you’re going to canter for four strides before requesting another flying change.

Step 1

On the right rein, ride down the quarter line in the collected canter. Make sure that the horse is straight and relaxed.

Step 2

When the horse is balanced on the quarter line, ride a diagonal line to the opposite quarter line.

At the beginning of the diagonal, ride a flying change to the left, ride forward for four strides, and then make a flying change back to the right.

NOTE: The quality and correctness of the flying change is more important than the number of strides between the changes. If the horse is not balanced or prepared to make a clean change, it is better to take a few extra canter strides.

Step 3

Now, ride a transition to walk for a couple of strides before resuming left canter and joining the opposite quarter line.

Step 4

When the horse is balanced on the quarter line, ride a diagonal line back to the other quarter line, again making a flying change to the right at the beginning of the diagonal, ride forward for four strides, and then make a flying change back to the left.

Immediately after the change, ride a transition to walk, and then resume right canter and join the quarter line.

Step 5

Follow the quarter line to the end of the arena and repeat the exercise on the other rein.

Making steady progress

Over the next few weeks, keep working on these exercises, ensuring that the changes are straight, forward, and correct. It’s imperative that the horse remains calm throughout. 

Once you’re confident that the horse is relaxed, happy, and secure changing every four strides, you can move on to asking for a flying change every three and two strides by following the same progression.

At the end of each sequence, remember to ride your walk transition.

Troubleshooting

Lack of impulsion

If you struggle to maintain your horse’s impulsion and forward thought throughout the changes, intersperse some medium canter.

For example, ride a flying change from left to right, then transition into medium canter. After a good few strides, bring the horse back into collected canter and ride a flying change from right to left. Finally, rider a few more strides of medium canter before transitioning back into walk.

The goal is to keep the horse stepping actively under with his hindlegs, not to get the horse excited. If the horse does get excited by the transitions into medium canter then it’s best to re-establish the relaxation before continuing with your flying changes.

Tension

It’s common for horses to become overexcited when performing flying changes in sequence. That leads to tension, hollowing, and the loss of harmony, rhythm, and balance.

The most effective way of preventing tension and anticipation is to ride a walk transition after each change, as described above.

If the horse becomes tense, walk on a long rein for a few minutes, and then resume the exercise.

Straightness

One of the most common faults with tempi changes is a loss of straightness.

In these instances, ride the changes along the arena wall or place poles along each side of the diagonal line to help keep the horse straight.

Also, be sure that you are sitting straight and not swinging your body from one side to the other as you ask for the changes, as this will unbalance the horse.

Slow to respond

Because of the horse’s natural asymmetry, and because they can favor one rein over the over, some horses can be slow to respond to one direction of change. This can lead to problems in achieving the correct number of strides between the changes.

To help speed up the horse’s reactions, make the flying changes on a 20-meter circle from counter-canter to true canter.

For example, if the horse is slow to respond when transitioning from right canter to left canter, ride a 20-meter circle to the left in counter-canter and ask the horse to change from right to left on the circle. It’s easier for the horse to canter a left circle on the left canter lead and will therefore have a tendency to give a quicker response to the aids.

Riding one-time tempi changes

Once your horse is confident in the two-time changes, you can teach him one-time changes.

If the progress has been made gradually and in a logical manner, with the horse remaining calm and confident at each step, then the one-times should be achieved without too much difficulty.

Exercise 3 – Introducing one-times

Step 1

On the left rein at C ride a 20-meter circle in collected canter.

Ride a series of transitions from walk to canter and canter to walk to build up the impulsion, balance, and reactiveness to your aids.

Step 2

Ride onto the diagonal line from H-F in left canter.

After a few strides, ride a flying change to the right. Immediately, ask for a flying change to the left.

Walk and reward the horse.

Step 3

As the horse becomes more confident, you can increase the number of one-time changes.

However, don’t go for too many or you risk the horse losing his balance and making mistakes. Always be ready to go back a step to reinforce the training before trying to move on to more challenging work.

What if the horse doesn’t change quick enough?

If the horse made a change after 2-strides instead of one, your aids were either too slow or he didn’t understand what you asked of him. Make the necessary adjustments and try again.

If the penny still isn’t dropping, then ride your horse onto a 20-meter circle in true canter. Ask for a flying change to counter-counter and then immediately ask for another flying change back to true canter. Because it’s easier for the horse to canter the circle in true canter, he will be more inclined to switch back again.

How to deal with anticipation

Since the one-time tempi changes are almost like a new pace, many horses can become overexcited by them. There’s also a tendency for the horse to start changing automatically without waiting for the rider’s aids.

Fortunately, there’s an effective method of solving those problems.

Step 1

Take up left collected canter and ride the diagonal line.

Make three flying changes every stride.

Ride forward for a few strides, and then ask for two more flying changes every stride. Now, keep going straight.

Step 2

Ride the diagonal line again. This time, change the number of one-time changes.

That exercise teaches the horse to wait for your aids.

How to count tempi changes

Now that you’ve taught your horse to perform tempi changes, you need to count them properly.

Dressage tests demand that a particular number of changes are executed. If you ride too many or too few changes, you’ll be marked down.

Counting five flying changes every fourth stride

The figure shown in brackets is the flying change. The other figures are the strides between changes. Start your counting with the first “change.” 

  • Change – 2 – 3 – 4 – (2) – 2 – 3 – 4 – (3) – 2 – 3 – 4 – (4) – 2 – 3 – 4 – (5) – 2 – 3 – 4

That takes practice! 

Counting five flying changes every third stride

  • Change – 2 – 3 – (2) – 2 – 3 – (3) – 2 – 3 – (4) – 2 – 3 – (5) – 2 – 3

Counting for five flying changes every second stride

  • Change – 2 – (2) – 2 – (3) – 2 – (4) – 2 – (5) – 2

Counting for five flying changes every stride (one-times)

  • Change – (2) – (3) – (4) – (5)

You’ll probably find that counting is a little difficult to begin with. However, as with most things in dressage, practice makes perfect, so stick with it!

A good tip is to watch some YouTube videos of Grand Prix tests and count along with the riders during the flying changes.

In conclusion

Riding flying changes in sequence is the highlight of advanced dressage tests and is something that most beginners aspire to.

Once the basic training is in place and the horse can perform single flying changes on a straight line and on a 20-meter circle, you can begin teaching your horse tempi changes.

The key to success is to take things slowly and methodically, focussing on keeping the horse relaxed, calm, and straight.

As with any aspect of your horse’s training, you must be prepared to take a step or two back when things go wrong.

Related Reads:




Leave a comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

There's more where that came from...

Check out our selection of related articles. 

How to Ride a Good Trot-Halt Transition
How to Change the Rein Across the Long Diagonal
How to Ride a Good Walk to Canter
How to Introduce Lateral Work (And in What Order)
How to Ride a 15-Meter Circle
How to Leg Yield