AQHA Professional Horsewoman Andy Moorman helps you sharpen your transitions.
The Journal’s Christine Hamilton spoke with AQHA Professional Horsewoman Andy Moorman about improving transitions. Andy shares this advice in the “Borrow a Trainer” column:
Transitions are about communication. I think everybody needs to back up and understand balance, not just beginners.
Here are three things you can do to work on your transitions.
1. Think of the weight and legs. To work on a canter departure, I have riders track at the trot on a large figure eight. (You can also do it at the walk.) As they circle right and have a correct bend to the right, I have them keep that bend when they go to circle left, maintaining a counter-bend as they circle left. When they circle back around to come off the counter-bend and circle right again, that’s when I have them ask for the canter departure for a right lead.
Be sure to practice both ways, for a left and right lead canter departure. Remember, horses can only make a good transition if their legs are in the proper position to be able to respond and make the change.
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2. Downward rhythm. I have riders do a lot of transitions down to the walk while maintaining rhythm into the walk. Riders usually want to slam a horse into the ground and then try to walk off. But all that does is teach the horse not to put his hind legs under him to keep his balance and rhythm through the transition.
If you lean back and pull on the reins, the horse’s head goes up, his back drops and he can’t get his hind legs under him to stop. Instead, think of the transition as a softening and allow the horse to do it rather than make the horse do it. And be ready to absorb some shock through the middle of your body.
If you ask a rider to come to the walk and maintain the rhythm, as she practices and learns to do it, she will instinctively use her leg to maintain the rhythm, and that keeps the horse’s hind legs coming under him. Then the transition is nice.
3. Work on balance. You have to really think about and work at keeping your body in the correct position. Keep your arms and hands quiet.
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That’s a big problem for most people. They do what I call “directing traffic” – their hands are all over everywhere. Just touch your body with the inside of your upper arm. Don’t hug yourself, just have a light enough contact so your shoulders are down and your upper arm is touching your body. Then ride out of a soft elbow with a straight line from the elbow to the horse’s mouth.
Sit straight and in the middle of the horse and get your leg under you, putting some weight in your stirrups. A lot of people don’t keep any weight in their stirrups. They grip with the upper leg and/or the lower leg to try to hold their bodies down. All that does is push them up off the horse.
Instead, think about your seat going down into the saddle. Work on not leaning forward – that makes horses jig and jog to try to balance with your center of gravity. You have to really think about sitting straight up and down in your seat, keeping your leg under you.