Riding good canter to trot transitions is a joy and a skill. In my experience the upwards transitions are the joy and the downwards transitions are the where the real skill lies!
I want to, nay need to, share with you my ‘eureka moment’ I had only this week whilst working on improving the quality of our canter to trot transitions. Those confounded downward transitions can be tricky, can’t they?
I do not wish to patronise you guys, so, I guess you know that the energy should come from behind and that preparation is key. Is there really any point in me saying you should practice! I really hope not. But I have billed this post as the ultimate guide, so I feel a gentle reminder is in order.
Essential requirements prior to the transition are:
- Check your position (ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment), you must be in balance
- Ensure you have a good steady rhythm in the canter, nicely relaxed
- Look up and through your horses ears, which you should be doing anyway
I have written before about how my gargantuan efforts hindered my progress and how stripping your aids back to what is essential for the desired result achieves greatness. So when you go for the transition to trot, do as little as you possibly can.
Go for the Trot Transitions
When my Eureka moment occurred, I simply took a deep breath, which has the effect of a half halt because by doing so the seat deepens, the upper body and rib cage lifts which in turn applies a sufficiently resisting hand (that is not pulling but not following) and with the words ‘hold, hold, hold’ booming in my ear from the side lines I did just that. Held my position.
Wow, the energy created from the canter and half halt flowed through the transition into the trot, which was utterly seamless. No loss of balance, no dropping onto the forehand, no clunky change of pace, I could barely tell if I was cantering or trotting.
If your horse continues to canter initially, that’s ok better that he is forward than losing energy. Just hold everything and your horse will make the transition eventually. Once the transition is achieved reward your horse verbally. Try to resist patting as you will interfere with the contact during this very important training phase.
I have been guilty of collapsing my torso through the downward transition in the past, I have been guilty of putting on too much pressure with the leg in an effort to keep the energy; I have been guilty of resisting too much with the reins also. Not anymore!
One fantastic transition does not a dressage rider make, so I did a couple just to check that it wasn’t a fluke and yeah, it works.