Take the challenge – 50 transitions a day

 

Take the challenge – 50 transitions a day

While riding my green horse Monster, I reflected upon our never-ending, yet always-improving struggle to balance off the forehand, avoid pulling, stay in front of the leg and light off my seat. Walking around in warmup while moving him off my right leg to left rein, I decided to challenge myself to 50 Transitions A Day. Could I do 50 good transitions in a ride? How would it help?

I outlined the rules to myself: a “good” transition didn’t have to be perfect, but it had to be soft, light, and willing. Transitions within gaits counted (free walk to medium walk, for example). Transitions within two gaits (trot/halt, walk/canter, etc) counted double. If he ever got “hot” and tense, I would go back to walk and practice stretching until he relaxed.

And so, I made a conscious effort to do a LOT of transitions in my flatwork today. Any time Monster ignored my half-halt, I did a downward transition (and if it wasn’t nice, I did it again). I counted the upward transition, too, and made sure he was soft and relatively through for his level of training. The transitions started out a little rough, but as the ride went on (around #18 or 20), he was much better– not just in the transitions, but in his regular gaits. His trot became lighter and better balanced; he wasn’t hanging on my hands nearly as much. He was more tuned in to my seat, both forward and back. His canter was far less leany, rushed, and heavy.

 


 

As riders, we tend to pick away at each gait, riding endless circles tweaking straightness or bend or balance, and lap after lap there isn’t a huge change. Today, I barely completed one full circle at a trot before performing a transition. Constantly changing gaits, changing directions, and shifting gears had my horse in a better trot or better canter than he ever would have achieved in 5 minutes of consecutive 20m circles. The key, though, was GOOD transitions: insisting on a level of straightness, softness, and use of hind end that made a big difference in the quality of his gaits. Also important, I didn’t pull or kick– I focused on using as light of aids as possible. I also used good timing: asking for the transition when he was relaxed, straight, and attentive, so it set him up for success. I tasked myself with maintaining that level of attention, straightness, and balance, so that I *could* ask for a good transition at ANY TIME of my ride.

50 transitions in a 30-minute ride is a lot; mathematically, that’s one transition every 36 seconds. And, surely, some transitions came much quicker than that: trot/walk/trot within a few strides, or halt/trot/halt. It took a bit of mental exercise to remember to count them, too! (Was that #28 or #29?) Nonetheless, I was quite pleased by the results of my 50-transition Challenge, and I think I’ll keep it up throughout my dressage work this month. As Monster progresses, I may even up the ante to 75 transitions or more!

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