Between E & K Working trot
Directive: Willing, balanced transition; quality of canter and trot
There is one thing that the best riders in the world share, that is they have a special feeling for “balance.” A dressage horse has a much different balance than a racehorse for example, but balance is the key to each and every equestrian sport. The greatest secret of riding is the achievement of “balance.”
The rider who hasn’t experienced balance with his horse, won’t miss it. He’s just happy to ride his horse with a huge smile on his face. However, if you know what it feels like to sit on a well trained, balanced horse, it’s really a punishment to sit on a horse that is unbalanced and/or poorly-trained. I know that is the one thing that really get’s me going!
Riding towards better balance requires quality transitions! Poor transitions that are on the forehand will make the horse worse by teaching him exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve. Correctly ridden transitions achieve three objectives: One, they help the horse to understand the meaning of your aids to go forward and come back. Secondly, they make him physically strong by building muscle in all the correct places and thirdly, they develop the balance to allow your horse to carry more weight on his hindquarters without losing that forward momentum.
In this test, the judge will start looking at your balance in the transition. By nature, your horse is balanced toward his forehand, so if you sit on your horse and allow him to move forward on a long rein, 60 percent of his total weight will be on his forehand. This is his natural balance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you go forward into trot or canter, your horse will go more on the forehand, and this is what we want to avoid! We want your horse to remain in balance whether we go forward or come back, at all times!
As a training method, the shortening of the canter stride can prepare your horse for the transition to trot, however, he must wait for your final aid to make that transition. If, for example, your canter speed is 7 miles per hour and your trot speed is 5 miles per hour, your ultimate aim is to slow down the canter to five miles per hour, which if you think about it is a form of collection, and then the transition will be smooth because your horse is already going at exactly the same speed as the new gait! If your horse breaks into trot too early, that may mean he just isn’t accepting the aids for slowing down the canter. Perhaps the shorter strides you are asking for are much too hard for your horse to do, so, the request to trot shouldn’t be delayed. If you think your horse is able to slow down the canter, then you really need to get after your horse and make sure he delivers on the collected canter.
Transitions are all about feelings. Once you and your horse get the feeling for transitions, then you can start to make them at the exact letter in future tests where the judge would like to see them performed. Remember, judges are always looking for the final result. No judge would be happy to see you do downward transitions if you slow down the canter as I have described as he wants to see the canter, then a crisp, clear transition to trot without any in between collected steps. However, keep this in mind, only when your horse is very well trained and over the back will he be able to perform the transition as the judge wants to see it!
Good luck in those transitions, Larissa!