This month inside the Miniature Horsemanship Study Group our topic is transitions. Below is an excerpt from the topic page and you’d like to get all the info and exercises and challenges, you can click here to join the Study Group!
While we most often think about transitions as a skill that benefits our driving horse’s (and they definitely are!) every horse can improve their balance, strength and responsiveness through work on transitions.
A transition is much more than just the change from one gait to the next. A well executed transition improves the gait that the horse is moving into, it helps them use the right muscles to improve their balance, and it’s a weightlifting exercise to help build strength.
Consistent work on transitions help refine your cues and communication with your horse, and get you working better as a team. If you are competitive in nearly any venue, polished, well executed transitions will help your performance. Driving in the breed or pleasure ring, dressage tests, obstacle or agility, showmanship – all of them will benefit. And if you don’t compete but just want a horse who is a pleasure to work with, transitions are worth spending time on for you as well!
A “Good” Transition
A quality transition is done promptly, in good balance with the horse reaching well under themselves with their hind legs and bring with them all the rhythm and energy of the previous gait. They don’t rush, but instead step powerfully into the new gait.
Both upward (ie walk to trot) transitions and downward (ie trot to walk) transitions should be active and forward – they should step energetically into the new gait, not rushing into a fast gait, or trickling down into a slower one.
Balance in the transition is very important to building the right muscles, so we can set our horses up for success with a few areas of focus.
- Don’t ask for the transition until you have a quality gait.
Wait until your horse is giving you the best walk they have before asking for the trot, or the nicest, most balance and rhythmic trot they are currently capable of before asking for the walk. A balanced gait will help lead to a balanced transition and into the new gait still in balance.
2. Give them plenty of warning.
Balancing themselves takes time, especially when they are pulling a cart, and especially when they are new to changing gaits on cue.
Instead of abrupt cues and expecting instant responses, we’ll have a much more beneficial transition if we give them a heads up that the transition is coming, and plenty of time to execute it. Especially in the early stages of building quality transitions, correct is much more important than prompt.
The cue sequence I like is: breath, “and”, “cue” (walk, trot etc), then if needed a rein/lead rope cue.
3. Focus on Relaxation
It’s easy to get carried away on trying for a prompt response, which just causes tension. Tense muscles can’t work to their best advantage, and are likely to build the wrong posture. It’s worth waiting for the transition to get a relaxed transition.
If you’d like to learn more about Transitions and how you can use them to help your horse become more balanced and strong, give a better performance, and improve your communication, join the Study Group, or if your focus is on driving, there is a whole module on transitions inside the Improving Your Miniature Driving Horse online course!