Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Good transitions are essential in riding horses. What we are looking for (yes, the order is deliberate):
  • smoothness 
  • maintain or enhance our horse's balance
  • maintain or enhance our hore's lightness
  • maintain or enhance our horse's attention
  • maintain or enhance our horse's "forwardness"
  • maintain or enhance our horse's collection
Picture a horse in self carriage, under a light, guiding hand, with the rider asking for an upward transition. The casual onlooker notices only that the horse now travels faster. The fellow horseman has seen the small shifts in posture and balance by the rider and horse which lead to the upward transition.

Transitions, both upward and downward are usually a result we want. The goal is to change speed and/or gait. However, the experienced rider knows that transitions can also be a tool. Revisit the list at the top. I said there "maintain or enhance". Yes, transitions are a great way to improve balance, lightness, attention, forwardness and collection, provided that the rider has balance, feel and timing. Oh, and lightness!

In a way, transitions also keep things fresh, they provide change and keep the ride interesting and give horse and rider things to do. They can be like a little game: Hey, let's see low few steps we can use before the downward transition is complete. Hey, let's see if half the amount of hand lifting suffices. Hey, let's see if breathing out from the middle will make a difference in the downward transition.

The same applies to work in hand, when the horse is on the circle. I always try to see how "little" a signal will suffice to get the transition. And I find that the more I ask with lesser cues, the more the horse tunes in. Sure, at all times I have to be prepared to ask again, with a more obvious cue. But I always ask with the lesser cue(s) first, as my goal, be it on the ground or in the saddle, is aways to achieve the points in the list at the top.

The transitions I'm really looking for are the ones where I have to do so little and the horse responds so smoothly and looks so beautiful, that most onlookers will think the horse did it by himself. They don't always happen, but they do happen. I do however, constantly aspire to get them.

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