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How to Ride a Good Trot-Walk Transition

How to Ride a Good Trot-Walk Transition how to dressage

Have your downward transitions from trot to walk been criticized on your dressage test sheets?

Have you received comments such as, ‘abrupt’, ‘should be more forward’, ‘needing to be more fluent’?

If so, read on to discover how to fix this.

The goal of a downward transition from trot to walk

You might think this is obvious – you want to get from a faster pace (trot) to a slower one (walk). But that is only one purpose of a downward transition – every correctly ridden downward transition is an opportunity to:

  • Close the horse’s hind legs forward under his body
  • Create more energy
  • Lighten the forehand
  • Prepare the horse for more advanced degrees of collection
  • Supple the hind leg joints
  • Strengthen the hindquarter muscles
  • Develop an understanding of the half-halt
  • Ultimately, to develop piaffe

More to it than you thought, isn’t there?

How do I ride a correct downward transition from trot to walk?

Simple though it might sound, this particular transition is the cornerstone to all the above, so well worthy of your attention to precision in how you ride it.

Most riders will have heard that you should ‘keep your leg on in a downward transition’, yet what most riders actually do, is change the pace and then put the leg on.

The correct sequence of aids is:

Step 1

Go into sitting trot.

Step 2

Slide both legs slightly back, until both are in the outside leg position.

Step 3

Simultaneously sit up taller, cease following the trot with your seat (hold your pelvis still without clenching your buttock muscles) close both legs against his sides (not too strongly, but enough that he responds by stepping more forward), whilst at the same time resisting slightly with the reins.

Step 4

The rein aid is dependent on your horse’s level of acceptance of the bit, and also his ability to shift his weight back onto his haunches.

If he is more educated, then you simply close your fingers a little tighter on the reins but without pulling.

If he needs more help, then use small vibrations on both reins to encouraging him to relax his jaw and remain flexed at the poll in a round outline.

Step 5

When you feel the hindquarters lower, relax all the aids and allow him to drop into walk.

Step 6

Remain relaxed, particularly in your legs and seat, to allow him to walk away from the transition.

Try not to use your legs to make him walk on. If you have achieved a correct downward transition, he will have arrived in walk with plenty of energy, and any leg aids will have the tendency to make him tense, and possibly to jog.

He should walk without you having to remind him to keep going.

In conclusion 

Riding a correct transition from trot to walk is utterly essential to furthering your horse’s training.

It is simple to ride a basic change of pace without achieving any of the goals set out above by aiding incorrectly, but doing that is a waste of a valuable opportunity.

Correctly aiding the transition may take time to learn, and will take discipline to apply it every time you ride this transition, but is well worth the effort in terms of developing your horse physically as well as gaining better marks in your dressage tests.

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