Forwards not Downwards.
Posted by Lorraine on Feb 1, 2011
Imagine yourself riding an upward transition. What do you think of first? The chances are you think of putting your leg on. Why wouldn’t you? It’s only natural to put your leg on when you’re going up a pace.
Now think about riding a downwards transition. What comes to mind? Most riders’ first reaction is to sit still. Think of the two or three strides of the actual transition and you’ll realise that at that point you hardly dare breathe let alone push on!
In truth you should use as much leg, if not more, on the downwards transitions as the up. As a horse comes in to a lower pace he needs to sit on his hocks. By doing this he keeps his hips lower than his withers. He’s in an uphill position and he can balance.
It’s important to keep yourself balanced too. Keep your head above your shoulders and sit back. Look straight ahead, not at the ground ten yards ahead. If you look down you’ll take your head forward which will take the weight off your seat.
Horses which tip their heads up into a transition do it because you’ve stopped pushing from leg into hand. Keep your hands up and practice using your legs on every stride of the transition. Keep your fingers moving so he can’t set his jaw. You’ll soon notice the difference.
Canter to trot causes most trouble. It’s common for horses to run through the transition. Their weight falls onto their shoulders and they run on for the next eight or nine strides. The rider then gets pulled forward and takes half a circuit to regain some control. Sound familiar?
Ride transitions from canter to trot at E or B. Prepare for the transition by sitting up and putting both legs on as you come onto the long side. Clamp your thighs and knees on at E or B, hold your hands up and nag at yourself to keep using your leg as your horse goes forward into trot. Keep your knee and thigh in until you reach the next corner marker. Then gradually release the pressure around the corner when you feel you’ve regained your control.
If your horse still runs through your transitions then ride some canter to halt transitions at E or B. Be positive. Horses do this for fun in the field. Imagine you have to halt on the end of a cliff. You’d stop then!
Be firm. Tighten the muscles in your lower back and your seat. Clamp your knees and thighs in hard and use your outside rein to back it up. Don’t forget to keep your lower leg on until he halts. Ride at least ten so he anticipates having to stop.
Now ask for canter to trot. Your horse will anticipate the halt so you should find you actually have to push on to stop him halting. Practice both to keep him guessing. If he starts to revert back to tanking in trot ask for halt as soon as you feel him start to run. It will remind him just who’s in charge.
Your horse will always be stronger than you. You can never win a pulling match. You have the benefit of knowing what you want to achieve so you can plan ahead. Use it to your advantage.
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.