Easy When You Know How …

Posted by in 10m circles, about horses, accurate, attention, balance, balance in a transition, Blog, body, can't stop, canter, canter execises, canter exercise, canter to trot, canter to trot transitions, canter transitions, consistent, contact, controlling the shoulders, dressage test riding, energy, equestrian, falling in, falling out, go forward, inside bend and straightness, interesting schooling, keep a contact, pull up, rein contact, ridingstraight, schooling on Jun 9, 2012


How often do you ride a canter to trot transition on a long side? It’s probably something you do all the time without thinking about it. So why do you find it so difficult on a diagonal? A diagonal is a straight line just like the long side. You can do it. You just need to know how.


There’s one big difference between the long side and the diagonal. The first corner. When you turn onto the long side the fence is there to help you. Turn onto a diagonal and there’s nothing to stop your horse falling out – except you.


If you ride a 10m circle how much outside leg do you use to push your horse away from the track? More than usual probably – it needs to be strong to push him off the track and onto the circle. You do the same when you turn onto the diagonal – right?


The degree your horse turns is directly affected by your body. The more you turn your head, shoulders and hips the sharper your turn will be. Use your outside leg as he turns and it replaces the fence by stopping his body drifting on up the track.


Practise riding a 10m circle in walk and trot at the start of each diagonal. Ride one circle and notice how much outside leg you use. Then turn across the diagonal using as much leg as you did on the circle. Make sure your inside leg is there too. Push your horse’s body away from your outside leg until he’s on the line you want him to take. Then catch him on your inside leg and use both together to push him forward.   


While your legs and body control your horse’s body and quarters your hands control his shoulders. They should stay in front of your body at all times. As you turn onto the diagonal line your hands up with the marker you’re heading for and push on.


Once on a diagonal it’s important to keep even pressure on your reins. Your horse is on a straight line so he should be looking where he’s going – not to the inside – as he would be if you were riding up the long side. Often riders worry about inside bend as they leave the track and their contact is stronger on the inside rein. It stays that way until they reach X. Because a transition is coming they take up the outside rein. The horse feels the new pressure and breaks into trot. Sound familiar?


Practise riding onto the diagonal with your hands directly in front of your body. Concentrate on keeping the contact the same in each rein. When you’re on the line you want to be on make sure your horse’s head and neck are straight. Now use both legs and ride across the diagonal as if you were heading down a long side.


In a dressage test you’re often asked to trot after X or between X and the corner marker. There is no better way to create a good transition than riding forward. Throw any thought of X out of your head! Start to think about the ¾ line. This changes the way you ride forward across the school. Suddenly you have further to go. Instead of focusing on X and backing off you’ll push on towards the ¾ line.


Many riders think if they ride forward across the diagonal their horse will run on in trot and rush the next corner. Think again! Your horse runs on because you allow him to. Practise on the long sides. Ride canter to trot transitions between E/B and the corner markers. Make sure you have an even rein contact and both legs on. Pull up through your body so you carry yourself and help him to stay balanced on his hocks.


As you pass E/B squeeze your thigh and knee into the saddle to slow your horse down. Tighten your fingers on the reins to tell him to trot. Your calf muscles should stay against his sides to keep his hocks under his body. If he tries to rush into trot clamp your thigh and knee in tighter and don’t release the pressure until you feel him relax. If he’s lazy and collapses into trot use both heels sharply as he trots to catch him in time and drive him forward.


If your horse runs into trot from canter he’ll benefit from this exercise – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/02/11/dont-stop-into-trot/  – it shows you how much you need to ride forward in the downward transition.


Another great way to get a horse’s attention is to put in a few trot to halt transitions before the corner. Sit back and be firm about it. Imagine there was a sheer drop on the corner – you’d stop then! It might just be enough to show him you mean business. Ride a couple of halt transitions and then try a canter to trot again. You might be surprised to find you have to push on this time.


Run through a whole canter diagonal with all these in mind –  

  1. Canter a 10m circle at the start to remind you to use your outside leg.
  2. Turn your body and your hands onto the line you want to take.
  3. Straighten his head and neck up and ride forward.
  4. Wait for the ¾ line before you ask him to trot.
  5. Use your thigh and knee to help you in the transition and to hold him in trot.
  6. Pull up, look up and ride forward in trot as you ride onto the new rein.


When you read through a dressage test the diagonal can leap off the page ringing alarm bells but don’t let it! Get your corner right and then all you have to do is stay straight and ride forward. Easy when you know how …


Good luck and enjoy your schooling.

For a more detailed approach to any aspect of riding why not check out my range of schooling guides. There are nine available to download now. At just 99p is there a more affordable way to teach yourself? 

If you have a question or a problem with your horse get in touch. You can email me at lorraine@schoolyourhorse.com of find me on Twitter (@pollson) or Facebook.  ALL my advice is free so why not try me?

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