“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.” — Sharon Ralls Lemon
There sure was a whole lot of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom on June 15, when Flying Change Stables in Chelmsford hosted its annual Flying Change Horse Show!
About 85 spunky and carefree young student riders, ages , from all over the Merrimack Valley competed and galloped the day away with some of the most beautiful horses and ponies of all breeds, sizes and colors.
The hard-working, dedicated and sincere owner-instructor Kathy McDermott has been teaching children at Flying Change Stables how to ride for 31 years on the beautiful Wojtas Farm property on Proctor Road. In addition to lessons, Flying Change also hosts two in-house horse shows a year. It is a way for the students to show off what they have learned in a horse-show atmosphere, according to Kathy.
The Z- List witnessed these young and dedicated horse lovers who proved that responsibility and hard work really do pay off.
Kathy’s love for horses started when she was young and would watch her aunt compete with her two show horses, Prince Banner and Challenge, and realized her love for horses and riding. She grew up riding at several local barns and, at age 19, had the opportunity to move to Salem, Ore., where for three years she managed and taught at Mountain View Stables.
Flying Change was originally located at the old Sunny Meadow Farm owned by Walter Lewis. When Walter passed, Frank Wojtas offered to lease Kathy his barn and some property in Kathy and her stable hands built stalls in what was the hay barn and, two months later, Flying Change Stables was born.
Flying Change Stables has developed a specialty in children’s riding. The staff is committed to providing the best environment for horse and rider. In addition to lessons, it offers safe horses and ponies for sale.
For more information, visit http://www.flyingchangestables.com.
Preparing to Ride Flying Changes
Director, Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre
Upper level dressage horses executing a quick sequence of flying changes of lead at the canter appear to skip or dance across the arena. Properly executed tempe changes demonstrate not only the horse's athleticism but also the precise, subtly nuanced communication that is possible between horses and their riders. Dressage horses, however, are not the only equine athletes whose performances require flying changes. Reining horses, barrel horses, and working cow horses do them. So do hunters and jumpers. Clean, balanced, correctly executed flying changes of lead provide the winning edge in a wide range of equestrian competitions.
Horses and riders must each master a basic set of skills before they are ready to attempt either simple changes of lead through the trot or flying changes at the canter. These skill sets might be described as "advanced intermediate" stages on the training tree and riding tree. The following benchmarks can help riders evaluate whether they and their horse are ready to attempt simple or flying changes.
- Can the rider follow the horse's motion and feel the individual beats? The outside hind touches down for the first beat of a canter stride, followed by the inside hind and outside fore touching down together. The third beat occurs as the inside fore touches down, followed by a short period when all four feet are suspended beneath the horse's body. The rider must be able to feel each of these separate beats in order to correctly time the application of the aids for a flying change just before the moment of suspension. Following the horse's motion is a prerequisite for feeling each individual beat.
- Does the horse have a balanced, three-beat canter on both leads? The rider should hear and feel three distinct, even beats at the canter on both leads. A horse that is balanced and straight should not feel as though it is leaning to one side or the other. Although the canter creates a rocking motion, the rider should feel as though she is moving on a level plane, not riding downhill. A horse must canter in balance in both directions in order to smoothly change the sequence of its footfalls during the moment of suspension.
- Can the horse stay in rhythm at the canter? The horse's canter strides must be rhythmic in both directions and the rider must be able to set and keep a steady rhythm. She must be able to maintain contact, ride in balance, follow the horse's motion and keep the horse on the aids.
- Is the horse responsive to the rider's aids for a canter depart on either lead? Like people, horses tend to have a dominant side. Riders need to work to make their horses ambidextrous and equally responsive to the canter aids in both directions.
- Can the rider send the horse on and bring it back at the canter? The rider should be able to maintain the horse's rhythm at the canter while asking the horse to extend or collect its strides.
When the horse and rider have mastered these benchmarks, they are ready to move on to flying changes. Riders should not attempt to teach horses flying changes until they have an independent seat and the ability to influence the horse by following its motion and coordinating their aids. Until they've reached that level of riding skill, they should learn how to ride flying changes by working with a good schoolmaster horse.
Timing the application of the aids is critical to correct flying changes. The aids must be applied just before the moment of suspension so that the change can occur during the moment of suspension. For example, the rider would apply the aids for a change from the right lead to the left lead just as the horse's right front foot moves forward to touch the ground.
The rider initiates the flying change by giving a half halt and straightening the horse. This alerts the horse that a new request is coming and begins the process of rebalancing and changing the horse's bend. Then she positions her new outside leg slightly behind the girth and positions her new inside leg at the girth while at the same time repositioning the horse's bend with the new inside and outside reins. Finally, she applies back, seat and leg aids to ask the horse to move forward into the next stride on the new lead.
Horses and riders new to flying changes should first learn to make simple changes of lead through the walk and trot. The horse transitions from the canter to the walk or trot, the new aids are applied and the horse resumes the canter on the new lead. The rider just beginning to do flying changes should work on maintaining balance and rhythm while continuing to follow the horse's motion. Correctly timing, coordinating and applying the aids for a change of lead takes time to learn. Be patient and do not rush from riding simple changes into riding flying changes until the simple changes are smooth and the ability to coordinate the aid changes has become part of "muscle memory."
Horses just beginning to learn flying changes also need time and practice to understand the question being asked and to develop the muscles necessary to athletically respond. Flying changes require that the horse first reposition its hind legs (the hind leg that is "leading" must change) then reposition its front legs (the "leading" front leg changes). Start by practicing simple changes across the diagonal and from circle to circle in large figure eights. As these become confirmed, gradually reduce the number of trot strides until the horse is making a lead change without any trot strides at all. Going from a counter canter (a canter on the "wrong" lead in terms of the direction the horse is moving in the arena) to a "true" or "correct" canter lead is another gymnastic exercise that helps the horse learn how to adjust its balance during a flying change.
Meredith Manor is an equestrian career college dedicated to preparing students for hands-on, equestrian careers as trainers, instructors, equine massage therapists, stable managers, farriers and more. If you want a career with horses and are considering attending Meredith Manor, request an information packet to learn more.
I feel so lucky to have spent the time I did in the Teaching department at Meredith Manor. It really helped me to discover teaching as my calling!
Sandy Zywar: Riding Master VI Graduate
Flying Change Farm
Horseback Riding Lessons
We specialize in: All-Around, Beginner Lessons, Dressage, English, Eventing, FEI, Foxhunting, Ground Work/Handling, Horsemanship, Jumpers, Problem Horse, Show Jumping, Trail Riding, Western Dressage, Mounted Drill Team
- Trainer Onsite
- Transportation to Shows
- Trainer Accompanies to Shows
- Lesson horses available
- Lessons to boarders
- Lesson to non-boarders
- Haul-ins for lessons welcome
Overnight Board Stall
Feed: Available but not included,
Hay: Available but not included,
Bedding: Available but not included
Trailer/RV Hookup: $30 with Power & Water
- Access to amenities
- Turnout available
- Attached Run
Overnight Board Paddock/Pen
Feed: Available but not included,
Hay: Available but not included,
Trailer/RV Hookup: $30 with Power & Water
- Access to facility amenities
- Turnout available
- Access to shelter
Avg. Stall/Paddock Size: 12' x 12'
Stall/Paddock Base: Rubber mats
Who feeds?: Barn Manager
Turnout: 17 hours.Pasture mate(s)
Included: Feed Hay Bedding Blanketing
Training Rides per week: 4
Avg. Stall Size: 12' x 12'
Stall Base: Concrete Rubber mats
Who feeds?: Barn Manager
Turnout: 17 hours. Pasture mate(s)
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Flying Change offers tale of horses, riders
WednesdayAug 6, at AMAug 7, at PM
It's easy to miss Flying Change Stables. A small sign sits near the bushes and trees at the entrance of Kathy McDermott's horse farm.
Upon arrival, however, the gravel and dirt driveway quickly opens into a view of stables and riding area.
"I had only see it from the road, and there wasn't enough land," said McDermott, remembering the circumstances of how she came by the property at Proctor Road in Chelmsford.
The owner of what was then a hay farm urged McDermott to take another look at the land. She quickly spied what, on her first glance, she thought was missing.
"This tree line was blocking [my view]," she said, gesturing. "I walked over and there was all of that was field. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and, I was like, ‘This is our new home.'"
Since , Flying Change has become a home for children's riding lessons. It also offers a riding program for children with special needs, Greener Pastures.
Flying Change offers the traditional lessons for the beginner to the advanced riders. McDermott's students also have the opportunity to work on the premises – from mucking out stalls to brushing and fedding the horses – and learning the responsibility, which comes with working with horses.
"Kids really transform quite a bit," she said. "A lot of kids are shy and awkward and they come here and just thrive. Once they are [age] 10 they can help here, and that's where the confidence builds.
"Some of them fall through the holes of the school sports system. They find they can connect with something and not be pressured."
There are ponies for the 4- and 5-year-old students. For those whose aspirations are higher, such as competing in shows, McDermott offers aggressive beginner courses.
As for Greener Pastures, it was an immediate success and, now 12 years in, continues to have a waiting list.
"We've had a lot of first words on a horse," said Cheri Patron, who approached McDermott with the idea. "We've had first smiles on horses. Kids who scream and scream and scream and can't tolerate any challenge to their sensory environment, get on the horse."
Patron, who has worked in special education for the Chelmsford public school system, thought of the Greener Pastures program after seeing the special needs children left at nearby picnic tables while their siblings were getting riding lessons.
"That rankled a little bit for me," she said. "One of my friends made the off-hand comment about how she wished her son could ride a horse."
Those two thoughts came together and a program was born. Patron earned a license to become a therapeutic rider and within a few months the program was full of students.
Horses are carefully matched with riders' temperament.
"The horse is the great equalizer," Patron said. "If you came and watched my program would not realize who was disabled and in what way. We also allow them to be the caregiver to the horse and that is a powerful thing."
"I don't know of any program who can do what we do," McDermott said.
The situation is pretty good for a horse lover who grew up allergic to horses.
When McDermott was a girl, she loved working with her aunt's show horses. The only problem, she'd return home wheezing, sneezing and battling hives.
McDermott would suck it up, take whatever medicine she had for the allergies and go back to the horses.
Eventually, and thankfully, the majority of the symptoms of her allergies gradually disappeared. Only occasionally now will her eyes burn.
At age 19, McDermott found herself managing a farm in Oregon. After a while, she returned to Chelmsford hungry to start her own horse business.
McDermott paid $3, to a woman who was leaving the business.
"I let her board her horses free for a year," she said. "And that's how it started, with a couple horses and me not knowing too much. I got a few people to help me and we developed from there."
However, the owner of the land died and his family took the property over.
"Ten years into it, and I thought, ‘That's it. I have all these horses and will never find an opportunity like that again,'" McDermott said.
That's when she was offered the hay farm.
"We had 60 days to transform everything," said McDermott, who called on friends to help build buildings and transform the old one into stalls.
The side of a field hill was dug out and a horse ring was added.
Now, all these years later, occasional struggles with economy and weather remain.
"We go year to year," McDermott said. "You try and re-invent yourself. You try to do whatever you can to keep people motivated and interested.
"We're having a really good year."
(Follow Martin Renzhofer at [email protected])
Change stables flying
This striking acre equestrian facility is located in Ottawa Lake MI, just minutes from Toledo, OH. Flying Change Farm is family-owned and operated, specializing in full-care boarding with exceptional lesson programs for all ages and equestrian disciplines. Whether you are a beginner learning to ride, a horse lover wanting to spend time experiencing these magnificent animals, or a goal-setting experienced rider seeking competition, Flying Change Farm can accommodate you.
The focus of Flying Change Farm is to provide exceptional care for horses through dedicated ownership, a proven and knowledgeable trainer, an excellent support staff, and a safe facility.
A first-class equestrian facility establishes a culture that fosters outstanding customer relationships and service. Along with providing great care and training programs, there are endless opportunities for attending social events, cookouts and adult / child activities. Come out and visit Flying Change Farm and enjoy the experience for yourself.
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