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Training essentials: Transitions

August 29, 2016

I love sharing things I find in magazines, websites, training tools and social media and this time I came across a great article on transitions. Funny, a walk – trot – walk transition is a basic exercise but don’t think it is easy! Many horses and riders still struggle to produce a balanced and energetic transition between the two gaits. Without a good transition, the horse will be unable to balance into the next movement, no matter how hard he scrambles after the fact.


Start with an active walk. You don’t want to drag your horse into a trot, he needs to have a strong walking rhythm before you make a transition to trot. Be careful not to rush your walk either, the transition needs to go from active walk to active trot.

Ask for a trot using your seat bones while minimizing the use of your legs. Use as much leg as you need but as little as you can. Maintain your rein length, many riders either back pull on the reins subconsciously or give too much rein when trying not to pull. Don’t get left behind when the horse trots off.

Back to walk

The down transition aids are pretty much the same only in reverse. Use your seat the same way, use half halts to rebalance your horse and use your seat to transition into a walk. Use your leg aids as you prepare to walk and keep your leg on to stay in an active walk. What you shouldn’t do is use your reins to pull your way into a walk. Half halts should work nicely and your seat should do the rest.

Exercise 20 x 60 arena

Start with a 20 meter circle left on the trot. Go around the circle one and a half times so you change in to a right 10 meter circle between S and R. Go around this 10 meter circle one and a half times and transition into a 20 meter circle to the left between E and B. Go around this circle one and a half times and finish with a 10 meter circle to the right. Practise each side twice.

Exercise 20 x 40 arena

In a 20x40 arena, start with a 20 meter circle left, go around one and a half times and change in a 10 meter circle to the right, followed by a 10 meter circle to the left. Then, change direction to do the same exercise on the other lead.


There are three types of transitions in this pattern.

Each circle requires a change of direction. The repeated left and right changes will help to supple your horse laterally. Remember to use your inside seat and leg aid in preparation of the new direction.

The change in circle size helps your horse bend more on the smaller circle, thus requiring a deeper stride from the inside hind leg. Then the next large circle allows the horse to use that increased engagement into a more forward, powerful stride using a smaller bend. See if you can develop a steady tempo in both the large and small circles.

Once you have a good handle on the figure, add gait changes within the circles. Start at the trot and do a walk transition at each midpoint of the circle. You can make it easier for your horse by walking 5 strides. Or you can increase the level of difficulty by limiting the walk to only 3 strides. Just make sure that you do get a walk, and that the walk is at a good marching pace. Then go back to the trot.

Try this exercise a few times this week and see what you think. Does it help your horse develop better suppleness left and right? I know I’ll certainly be practising and I’d love to hear your feedback on how the exercise has helped you!

Source: Horselistening

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