Exercise of the Week: Transitions

When the Freedom Woods website was relaunched a year ago, I was diligent about blogging every couple of weeks. More recently, blogging has fallen by the wayside due to my busy schedule. I am going to attempt to spend more time blogging, but if I miss a few weeks please forgive me. 

Recently, one of my younger students told me that when I am not at the barn she just gallops around on her pony because flatting is boring. I tried to explain to her the importance of flatwork and she very quickly dejected herself from the conversation and rolled her eyes at me. It is very easy when no one is watching you to get lazy and just flat around on your horse. Every now and again I think it is okay because everyone needs a break, however you are missing valuable training time on your horse. Not to mention, more often then not you are also instilling poor behavior for your horse. Every week I will put up a blog to give my students things to work on. Sometimes they will be simple and repetitive while others will be complex. This is an effort to give students a plan and something to work on. This week I will discuss transition work. 

Transitions are important to get your horse listening to your aids. For those of you who are more novice riders, when I say 'aids' I am talking about leg, hand, seat, and voice. Practice transitions, walk to trot, trot to walk, canter to walk, walk to canter, to halt, to backing up a few steps. Any and all transitions are good work for your horse. When I practice transitions, I don't merely go through paces and just do them. For example, if I am practicing walk to canter transitions, I walk until my horse is in front of my leg and behind my hand in a good working walk rhythm, only then do I transition to canter. I then work my canter until again my horse is in front of my leg and behind my hand and in good rhythm, then I repeat. My goal is to get my horse where I want them efficiently without rushing to do so. I repeat them until my horse is accepting and confident. I do not over work them until my horse is stressed or exhausted, but I do not under work them where my horse is not really listening to me. When practicing transitions, start simple, at the walk and trot and work towards more complicated. Do not start at something you know you will not be successful at, get your horse listening first. 

When practicing transitions, it is not just changing gates, it can also be lengthening and shortening strides. Practice lengthening the trot and shortening the trot, both at the posting trot and the sitting trot. Practice lengthening and shorting at all different gates and using all different seats. You cannot be too good at transitions, you cannot make your horse too good at listening. The entire goal is to get and keep your horse listening to you in a relaxed and comfortable manner. 

When I was younger, my trainer told me that you lose 80% of your flatwork when you start jumping. That percentage sounds a little high to me, but lets go with it. When I start jumping, my horse is only listening to me 20% of what he normally does. I remember saying, "Fantastic" (sarcastically). That means, you better practice flatwork or you are going to walk into the show ring and be over faced. Practicing flatwork will improve your jumping. You will be able to gallop down the line in the jump off and do the leave out, and be able to get your horse back around the turn to find that shorter distance to the vertical to make the inside turn in the roll back. 

This week, and every week for that matter, practice transitions. Don't practice till your horses are exhausted, but practice until you are successful. Try to get on everyday and make your horse a better horse, a more educated horse. It is easy to get lazy and just hack around, or to whip our your phone and go on snapchat and send selfies of you and your horse, but try to use your time more wisely and become a better rider and horse person. Until next week....