Focus On Transitions – Week 3

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Title 3I hope you’ve enjoyed working on the previous weeks’ transition exercises. If you haven’t seen them yet, click on the links below for the first two weeks. You’ll find detailed descriptions of the aids for each transition in the text of the the first two weeks.

Focus on Transitions – Week 1

Focus on Transitions – Week 2

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Purpose:

Things are getting a little more complicated this week! We’re going to head into a bit more challenge with non-progressive transitions (specifically walk/canter/walk) and a walk/canter straight line transition. In general, straight line transitions are more difficult than transitions on turns (the horses want to fell left or right). There is also a canter loop and 15-metre circles at each end of the ring.

If you have a young horse or beginner rider, feel free to change the gaits to the ability level that is needed. For example, trot instead of canter, come off the pattern when needed (nothing is written is stone!) or make the circles larger. Always suit the exercise to the student and horse, and set them up for success before moving on.

Here we go!

Goals:

  • properly placed 15-metre circles
  • straight and balanced canter-walk transitions
  • Effective corners
  • Transitions within a straight line
  • Impulsion to, through and after the transitions
  • Effective half-halts before and after changes (gait and bend)

Aids:

Walk-Canter-Walk 

1. Walk

Start with a strong, marching walk. Keep reins short enough for the upcoming canter transition. Legs should be on and seat is walking.

2. Prepare

Half-halt two to three strides before the canter transition. This half-halt might be just a “whispering” half-halt because you are at the walk and there is little impulsion. Be sure your half-halt doesn’t block the horse, but rather, softens him over the topline and prepares him for a deeper hind end stride as you head into the canter.

3. Canter Transition

Inside leg stays firm at the girth, helping the horse stay straight.

Outside leg does a “windshield wiper” movement behind the girth.

Seat canters.

Ideally, these aids happen in quick succession, almost at the same time. Be sure that your seat continues in the canter after the first canter stride. You might need to keep your outside leg back over the first few strides to secure the canter lead.

4. Walk Transition

After achieving a rhythmical, strong canter, prepare to walk with a series of half-halts.

Both legs become active – they put pressure on the girth, asking the hind end to come underneath for the transition.

Half-halt a few strides before the transition.

Seat changes to walk.

You might need a few half-halts after the walk transition as well, to establish an active rhythm.

Exercise:

T3

Transition Exercise #3. © Horse Listening, 2015

Once again, adapt this exercise to your ring size. The letters are there for reference only.

Start at the red arrow, just before C. You are walking on the left rein.

Canter transition at C. Left 15-metre circle beginning and ending at C.

Walk transition after C, before the corner. Walk through the corner, while preparing for another canter transition.

Canter loop from H to X to K. This requires the horse to do a mild counter-canter but maintain the left lead. You might need to encourage more activity through this part in order to maintain balance and roundness (work over the topline).

Before K, prepare to walk. Walk at K, before the corner. Walk to A.

Before A, prepare to trot.

At A, do a 15-metre left circle at trot.Continue through the corner, preparing to walk.

Walk at F. Between F and P, prepare for a walk to canter transition. Shorten the walk strides and increase the energy level. You might need to work at keeping your horse straight through this short walk as well.

Left lead canter at P. Maintain the straight line to M.

Before M, prepare to walk. Walk at M.

You can start the whole thing over and do the left side a few times before you change directions to the right side.

I rode this exercise myself this week with Cyrus. The transitions do come up quickly and the relative “straightness” of the whole thing gives little room for rest. But it kept us on our toes and had Cyrus working well from the hind end when all was said and done! His gaits got freer and more balanced as we went through it several times. His rhythm slowed a bit and felt more purposeful at all the gaits. The walk breaks gave us a chance to gather ourselves for the next part of the exercise.

Most importantly, it was fun!

Have you been working on these exercises? I’d love to hear how they are working for you. Leave a comment below, or email me at fwdnrnd@gmail.com

Happy riding! 

Disclaimer: Use this as a guideline but you might need your instructor to respond to your individual needs. By using information on this site, you agree and understand that you are fully responsible for your progress, results and safety. We offer no representations, warranties or guarantees verbally or in writing regarding your improvement or your horse’s response or results of any kind. Always use the information on this site with a view toward safety for both you and your horse. Use your common sense when around horses.

Want to advertise your business on Horse Listening? Click here for more info.

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Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

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3D book 2

 

Some reading to support the above exercise:

What To Do When A Half-Halt Just Won’t Do: What to do if your horse doesn’t respond to your half-halt.

“Go and No”: The Connection Between Forward And Half-Halt In Horse Riding: We have to learn the coordination between “go and no” – all the while, keeping our balance to give the appropriate aids while not pulling on the reins.

Interpreting the Half-Halt: It is said that the half-halt has different meanings to different people.

Why Would You Bother To “Scoop” Your Seat Bones? Learning to use your seat effectively should take a lifetime to develop, so we will begin with just one basic aspect: how to move the seat bones.

Three Ways To Use Your Seat In Horseback Riding: The balanced seat is what allows us to develop independent hands, good riding posture and loose, supple legs that can aid at a moment’s notice.

 

10 Ways To Spot A Horse Person

Keep Riding

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, I was teaching in my classroom of little Junior Kindergarten children. I had a special event planned for them, and several parents joined us during the day to help out. You can imagine the fun we had – a room full of children, amazing treats and a bunch of put-a-smile-on-yer-face activities to keep us occupied.

You can probably also imagine the mess that was left behind as the lunch bell rang and all the little bodies headed straight out the door for recess.

Lucky for me, a few parents stayed back to help with the clean up.

One mother, in particular. grabbed the class broom and started sweeping. I stopped what I was doing and took a long look, admiring her sophisticated grasp of the broomstick and the refined dust-flicking movements that magically made the floor shiny and new.

She caught my gaze as I was analyzing her mad sweeping skillz, and looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“Where’d you learn to sweep like that?” I asked.

Sure enough, turned out she had horses. And a barn. And no barn help!

We had a chuckle that day about the funny idiosyncrasies of horse people, and how you can spot one from a mile away – if you know what to look for. 

Here are some clues, in no particular order.

1. Smell doesn’t bother them.

Smell? What smell? In general, horse people have an easy time with the less appealing scents you might find around a barn or field – like the smell of rotting manure, dead rodents, or fermenting beet pulp. But don’t be surprised if you catch them taking a deep whiff of air as they enter a clean barn, put their nose to a flake of fresh hay, or snuggle close to their horses.

2. They can clean up disgusting messes.

This goes along with the bad smells in the barn. After being in a barn for a while, they won’t be nearly as disturbed by squishy, smooshy messes as the regular person. Clean out a few stalls, clear up a few corners in the barn and soon enough, there will be little that can turn them right off.

3. They have more empathy for all animals than the average person.

As keepers of a large animal species, horse lovers are known far and wide as guardians of those who can’t speak for themselves. But for most of them, this love of animals transcends species. They learn to appreciate all animals more, just thanks to what they learn from their horses. Be it cats, dogs, lemurs, or goats, they’ll be there to give a helping hand or just a cuddle.

4. They can stay out in all kinds of weather.

Whether in rain, drizzle, snow or fog, the horses are waiting for food or care.

If the riders compete at horse shows, they’ll soon become comfortable in all sorts of conditions (other than extreme weather) – because the show must go on! Have no fear. They’ll learn to dress (not so much for fashion) and just go out and get the job done!

5. They don’t bat an eyelash when lifting heavy objects (say, around 40 pounds??).

I’m thinking about feed bags, hay bales, full wheelbarrows or awkward horse-size blankets. Horse people tend to do what needs to be done – sooner than later. If someone is around to help – all the better! Otherwise, roll up your sleeves and lift! Just bend your knees before picking it up.

6. They can drive a truck and trailer just as well as anyone.

And car. And bicycle. And four-wheeler. And anything else that moves.

Bonus! They can also back it all!

7. They aren’t shy to use the right names for all the “private” body parts!

Young children never learn to be shy about using the correct body part terms, because in a barn, no one gets too hung up over giggling over words. When the health of their horse is a concern, they make sure that they are perfectly clear about what body part they are referring to. Funky terms like semen, sheath, vulva and teats just become common vocabulary.

8. They have many and varied (non-school, non-work) friends.

The barn is a non-discriminatory (does that make sense?) venue. The aisles are graced with the pitter-patter of young feet, the creaky-patter of the more finely aged feet, and everything in between.

Various levels of ability become less critical when one is sitting on the back of a trusty steed.

When everyone has a common interest, it becomes easy to cross any gaps – social, physical, age, and more – and find things to talk about. It gets even better when one riding arena is populated at once by children, teenagers, adults and old-timers – all in it for one shared passion – the love of the horse.

9. They can push themselves out of their comfort zone.

Don’t kid yourself. Riding isn’t just all fun and games. Learning to be around horses necessitates a level of confidence and carefulness that teaches horse people to accept the fact that things might not always work in their favor. They will find themselves being humbled and challenged on a regular basis. Soon enough, they will recognize that stepping out of their comfort zone is valuable. That’s where the real growth happens.

10. They STILL take a good long look at the horses in the fields as you drive by.

That little kid inside them who was mesmerized by horses never really goes away. They might mature and develop over the years, but one thing is for sure – their attention will suddenly shift to wherever there is a horse to be seen!

What is this list missing? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Want to advertise your business on Horse Listening? Click here for more info.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

3D book 2

 

HL on The Dressage Radio Show?? Yes! Follow the link to hear me speak about 20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself.

Eight Legs Plus Two: A poem.

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your Horse: Horses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

5 Common Horse and Riding Myths: Do you regularly find yourself explaining/educating/justifying/rationalizing/defending your “horse habit”? Then this article is for you!

14 Reasons to Love Horseback Riding: There must be hundreds of reasons why people enjoy horses and horseback riding. Here are fourteen.

 

Focus on Transitions – Week 2

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TitleLast week, we started with three forms of transitions: change of direction (bend), change of gait (walk-trot-walk) and change of circle size (20m and 10m circles). The idea was to negotiate those changes as smoothly and balanced as possible through the circle exercise.

This week, we’re going to work on straight lines moving to a circle back to a straight line. In general, straight lines are even harder to do well than bends because true straightness means being equally able on both the left and right sides. Both horse and rider must become straight even on turn lines or bends, but on a straight line, lack of straightness is easily evident.

_______

Purpose:

Walk-Trot-Canter-Trot-Walk Transition, Straight Line to 15-m Circle, Counter Canter

Although we are still working on progressive transitions (up and down transitions that occur in order), this exercise is somewhat more challenging than the last one. You can accommodate for young/untrained horses or beginner riders as indicated at the bottom.

Goals:

  • Balance
  • Impulsion
  • Straight line to bend or circle
  • Corners
  • Accuracy of 15-m circle
  • Maintenance of rhythm through all changes

Aids:

This time, we are going to transition between all three gaits, upward and downward. See the specific aids for a walk to trot and trot to walk transition in last week’s article.

I’m including a detailed analysis of the trot-canter aids as well as the canter-trot aids below. Scroll down to the exercise if you are already familiar with the trot-canter and canter-trot aids.

Trot-Canter Aids

I’m reprinting the trot to canter aids from my previous article, 7 Essential Aids For An Epic Canter Transition. I feel there is sufficient detail in this description to give you a good idea for the upward transition.

1. It All Starts With the Seat

Well, we already know this. But how does the seat exactly play into the transition? First off, your seat should be trotting when the horse is trotting. So if you are sitting the trot, your seat bones are actually moving in the rhythm of the trot. Be sure to promote a strong but not fast rhythm – one that your horse finds easy to move in while remaining supple.

If you are posting the trot, sit the last few strides before the canter. Use your seat to draw up the horse’s hind legs, asking for more impulsion.

2. Use the Inside Leg/Outside Rein

The inside leg has a very important job in this moment. Apply the whole leg (from ankle up) at the girth to ask the horse for a mild bend to prepare for the inside lead. If your horse has a tendency to lean in just before the transition, your inside leg becomes even more critical in helping the horse maintain balance by not allowing him to drop his rib cage toward the middle of the ring.

The outside rein does little except to act as a “neck rein” – the one that sits onto the horse’s neck and prevents him from drifting to the outside. It also can work during the half-halt aids before and after the departure.

3. Half Halt Preparation

Do one or two or three half-halts before the transition. We often tend to “throw everything away” (as in, lengthen the reins, take the legs off the horse, fall to the horse’s front) as we head into the gait change. Fight that impulse and instead, keep the horse together. Falling to the forehand and trotting faster before the canter almost always ensures a low-quality canter gait. Although the horse might transition, he will likely be on the forehand, braced in his neck and jaw and hollow in his back.

Instead, after you ask for impulsion, half-halt the horse to balance his weight to the hind end. Keep your legs on for impulsion.

4. Use the Outside Leg – Ask For the Lead

The outside leg initiates the lead. Some people call it a “windshield wiper” motion: swing your lower leg behind the girth to ask for the first stride. The horse’s outside hind leg should strike off into the lead as your leg reaches back.

5. Canter With Your Seat

So far, your seat should have been trotting. Now, it needs to initiate the transition. So you go from two seatbones moving in tandem with the horse in the trot, to a canter motion with the inside seat bone leading (to allow for the horse to take the inside lead). Your seat now needs to promote the canter movement – swinging back and forth thanks to your supple lower back. Keep your shoulders fairly still by moving through your back. The swinging movement allows for the illusion of your shoulders staying still while the horse is moving.

6. Use the Half-Halt Again

Just because the horse is now in canter doesn’t mean that you should stop riding! Many of us tend to freeze in our aids, opting instead to just hang on to the increased movement of the canter. Well, as soon as you have enough balance and are able, go to riding actively again.

Half-halt – once, twice, three times maybe – in the rhythm of the canter. This helps the horse to stay “together” after the transition. The sudden surge of energy needs to be controlled so that it doesn’t just fall on the horse’s shoulders and forehand.

7. Canter on!

Now all you have to do is commit to the horse’s movement. Your seat should allow the movement that your horse offers, and it’s your job to not let your upper body fall forward/backward/sideways while your seat follows, follows and follows (unless you do another half-halt).

Canter-Trot Aids

The aids for this downward transition are similar to the upward transition aids.

1. Seat

Your seat should be in canter mode at this time. However, you can use a resisting seat aid in tandem with your upcoming half-halts to prepare for the downward transition.

2. Half-Halt

This half-halt can start with the seat and be followed up with the hands if necessary. I’ve tried to describe the various versions of half-halts in this article, Where Does Your Half-Halt Start? Here Are Four Suggestions. Use your leg aids at this moment to help keep your horse’s energy flowing forward even through the downward change of gait.

3. Trot

Now, your seat should be in trot. If your horse “drops” heavily into the downward transition, be sure to use your leg aids to urge him to press on in trot. Ideally, his first few trot steps should be strong and energetic.

You should also be there right on top of him, ready to move boldly forward into the trot. Don’t get left behind or jolted out of your saddle. You can go into a posting trot or continue sitting if you are able.

4. Hands

We are usually taught to pull the horse into the downward transition, especially as new riders. Once you can reliably get the change of gait, start to work away from pulling at all for a downward transition.

The half-halts should be adequate to prepare your horse for the transition, and then to establish the trot. See if you can maintain an even pressure with your reins. Avoid both extremes – throwing them away or pulling back.

Exercise:

This exercise can be done in a large or small ring. It is drawn here using the letters of the large ring for easier reference.

T2-1

Transition Exercise #2. © Horse Listening, 2015

Start on the right rein at E, at a good, strong, marching walk.

Transition at S to trot.

Do a “good” corner before heading to C, still in trot.

Transition at C to canter. Do a 15-metre circle. Be sure to stay off the rail through the whole circle. Use your outside aids to guide the horse on the circle.

Continue to the corner, still in canter.

Complete the corner and head on a diagonal line from M to V, still in right lead canter.

Continue in right lead canter from V to K. This requires the horse to maintain a counter-canter for a few strides just before the trot transition.

Trot at K. Head into the corner at trot.

Finish the second corner and transition to walk. Finish the exercise in walk to B.

Now, if you like, you can continue the same exercise on the opposite rein starting at B. If not, go back and do it again from E.

If you have a young or untrained horse, or a beginner rider, you can make a few changes that will help them be successful. Take the transition in the corners instead of at the letters on the rails. The corners help the horse maintain balance better. You can make the circle a 20-metre circle, which will help the horse that needs more room. You can also trot the diagonal line rather than negotiate it in canter/counter-canter.

Try this exercise a few times this week. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions, suggestions or accomplishments that you would like to share.

Disclaimer: Use this as a guideline but you might need your instructor to respond to your individual needs. By using information on this site, you agree and understand that you are fully responsible for your progress, results and safety. We offer no representations, warranties or guarantees verbally or in writing regarding your improvement or your horse’s response or results of any kind. Always use the information on this site with a view toward safety for both you and your horse. Use your common sense when around horses.

Want to advertise your business on Horse Listening? Click here for more info.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

3D book 2Read more on transitions and circles here

The Five Stages Of A Transition: Whether you are working on upward transitions or downward, progressive or non-progressive, there are certain aspects to look for in every well executed gait change.

17 Things I Have Learned While Developing My Seat: I’ve harped on riding from your seat before (see the links at the end of this article), but thinking back, here are the stages I went through as I progressed.

Drawing A Circle (In Sand): Perhaps ironically, one of the most effective ways to develop better straight lines is to ride a correct circle.

What Is A Neck Bend? And What To Do About It: The neck bend causes the horse to be imbalanced. No matter which movement he performs, his neck is essentially taken out of the equation and the horse moves out of straightness.

The Benefits of Cantering Round And Round The Ring: Here is something to practice: if you think your horse is fit enough, go ahead and give this a try. After an adequate warm-up, head into the canter. And don’t stop.

14 Ways To Have A Great Ride

great ride

We’re well into the swing of the riding season here in our parts. The horses are fit and the riders are well into a routine, achieving personal goals and heading out on trails. Here are some quick ideas to add to your normal repertoire of horsin’ around activities. 

1. Enjoy a good groom before you ride. Find your horse’s itchy spot and scratch it! You’ll both feel better after a thorough clean up and check.

2. Change things up. Different things freshen up the old routine.

3. Play with transitions. Don’t force them, but put in more than you usually do.

4. Build up energy. Don’t get humdrum about your ride – go to it like it’s the best part of your day (it is)!

5. Ride with friends. Your horse likes it as much as you do – just limit “hanging out” and socializing until after the ride. While you’re on your horse’s back, ride with a purpose – together.

6. Do something new. Set up a new obstacle or jump. Or ride around the clump of grass. Here’s one: weave through two barrels (or pylons or jump standards) – backward! Look for something different to do.

7. Set a goal. Work toward something that is achievable and sets you up for success (transitions, anyone?). But do more than just that (see #5).

8. Let your horse take initiative. Encourage your horse when he does something well, even if you weren’t asking for it. For example, if you asked for increased energy at the trot and he did a wonderfully balanced canter transition, go with him for a few strides. You can always go back to the trot again and continue to work on the energy level.

9. Have a quick celebration! Every horse has a favorite movement. After a series of “work” movements, have some fun time. My horse LOVES to lengthen or stretch – I use them as mini-riding-parties every ride.

10. Give your horse a pat. With your inside hand, so you can give an inside rein release at the same time.

11. Work on your half-halt. Find your horse’s happy place with effective, well-timed half-halts. Balance is where it’s at – for both you and your horse!

12. Keep you and your horse straight – even on a circle! Straightness is key to help your horse carry you around with as little damage to his body as possible. Constantly work on keeping the horse “between the legs and reins”.

13. Go splash in a puddle. Literally! Use every puddle as an opportunity.

14. Hose your horse off at the end, especially if it’s hot outside. There is nothing nicer for a horse than a cool (or lukewarm) shower after exercise. Washing the sweat and grime out from under the coat is a great way to end a great ride!

Want to advertise your business on Horse Listening? Click here for more info.

horse logos 1

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

New! Horse Listening – Book 2: Forward and Round to Training Success

Available as an eBook or paperback.

 

3d Book 2Read more fun articles here:

HL on The Dressage Radio Show?? Yes! Follow the link to hear me speak about 20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself.

Eight Legs Plus Two: A poem.

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your Horse: Horses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

5 Common Horse and Riding Myths: Do you regularly find yourself explaining/educating/justifying/rationalizing/defending your “horse habit”? Then this article is for you!

14 Reasons to Love Horseback Riding: There must be hundreds of reasons why people enjoy horses and horseback riding. Here are fourteen.