Transitions are the key to improving your horse’s engagement and balance, his obedience to your aids, his suppleness, and ultimately his collection; that’s why including transitions in your everyday training routine is so important.
Transitions also form an important element of all dressage tests, from grassroots through to advanced levels, because they are a great way of allowing judges to assess the horse’s way of going according to the Scales of Training.
One of the most challenging transitions to ride well is that from trot directly into halt.
So, what’s the judge looking for in a good trot-halt transition and how do you ride one?
What the judge is looking for in a good trot-halt transition
In a well-executed trot-halt transition, the judge will be looking for:
- the maintenance of the trot rhythm and the quality of the trot before the transition
- the engagement of the horse’s hindquarters as he makes the transition
- the contact remaining elastic through the transition
- the horse remaining balanced into the transition
- the horse remaining straight into the transition
- the fluency and smoothness of the transition
- the halt should be square, and the horse should remain on the rider’s aids
- the transition should be performed at the prescribed marker
The directness required of the transition will depend on the level of the test. For instance, at beginner levels, the horse is permitted to take a step or two of walk before halting to make it easier for him to keep his balance and therefore maintain the fluency. For more advanced tests, the judge would expect to see a direct transition without the need for any walk steps preceding it.
Common faults in the trot-halt transition
There are a number of common faults that occur during the execution of trot-halt transitions.
- the trot slows down and the horse jogs into walk before halting
- the halt is very abrupt and as a result, the horse pitches onto his forehand
- instead of using his hindquarters for balance, the horse leans on the rider’s hand
- the horse opens his mouth and either hollows over his topline or drops behind the bridle
- the horse swings his quarters out in order to keep his balance
- the halt itself is not square
- the halt is far too early or far too late
How to ride a good trot-halt transition
Note: When first teaching your horse to come directly from trot to halt, it’s helpful to allow a couple of steps of walk. This helps to preserve the rhythm and balance, especially in young or inexperienced horses that are in the early stages of their education.
Make sure that the trot is a lively one with plenty of energy from the horse’s hindquarters; this helps to encourage the hind legs to step under the horse during the transition and will help him to keep his balance and halt square.
Give your horse due warning that you are about to ask him to make a transition by giving a few light half-halts.
A few steps prior to the transition, take up sitting trot making sure that your weight is distributed evenly over both seat bones.
Stop following the horse’s movement with your pelvis and close your legs at the girth.
Apply a ‘keeping’ rein aid to a forward hand; i.e. close the rein to prevent the horse from moving forward, but don’t bring your hands back toward you.
As soon as he responds, allow with the hand again so that the halt is not too abrupt and to enable the horse to step under his body with his hind legs.
As the horse comes into halt, breathe out deeply so that your whole body relaxes. This will help the horse to stay relaxed too.
Throughout the exercise, sit up tall and straight, breathe deeply, and look ahead of you. If you find yourself looking down, you’ll be more likely to tip forwards and put your horse onto his forehand.
Common rider faults
- lack of preparation
- too much rein and not enough leg
- leaning backwards instead of sitting deeper
- using a strong, driving seat aid, which can cause some horses to become hollow or tense over the back
- looking down
The key to riding good trot-halt transitions is in the preparation and in not expecting too much too soon, especially with green or inexperienced horses.
Concentrate on your own position, keep your leg on, don’t use too much hand, and try to stay as relaxed as possible.
Riding good transitions is a great way of helping your horse to progress along the Scales of Training and will gain you many marks in dressage tests.
- How to Ride a Good Halt-Trot Transition
- How to Ride a Good Halt
- How to Encourage Your Horse to Stretch
- How to Ride a Good Trot-Walk Transition