Ann Katrin Querbach is a certified instructor with the German Riding Federation. She believes that the highest goal in riding is establishing the greatest possible harmony possible between human and horse. In the article below she provides the German Riding Federation’s proven arena exercise for riding precise transitions.
To encourage willing cooperation, it is important to ride many transitions, both between and within the gaits. In many types of equestrian competition, clean transitions are highly valued.
Precise Transitions Exercise t— On the Circle
How Does This Exercise Work?
(1) Ride on a circle at the walk. When you are in line with each pole, ride a transition. In the beginning, walk-trot, trot-walk or walk-halt, halt-walk. The poles allow you the possibility to slightly vary the points where you execute the transitions.
(2) Next, you can begin to utilize the cones as your point of orientation. The transition should always take place exactly as the horse’s shoulder is in line with the cone.
(3) Build in lots of changes of direction and make sure to ride the exercise on both sides.
Aids: Fora circle tracking left, position your horse to the inside using your left rein and regulate him on the outside with your right rein. Shift your weight toward the inside and apply your leg aids. Look in the direction that you want to go.
What is the Horse Learning?
To react with sensitivity to the rider’s aids. To activate the hindquarters through changes of gait.
What Is the Rider Learning?
Refinement of the aids. A feel for riding transitions.
What to Do if…?
My horse won’t stop.
Sit deeply in the saddle. Keep your legs against the horse’s sides.
Heads Up! Don’t pull or tug on the reins. Pressure generates counter-pressure! Many horses run against pressure on their mouth. Support your transition with calming voice aids and don’t forget to exhale.
My horse gives the minimum when I ask him to trot on.
Give your horse a clear cue. Drive him powerfully forward. Don’t accidently block the horse from moving forward by inadvertently having too much rein contact or a tight back.
If your horse doesn’t respond, you can support your driving aids by tapping him with your whip. Breathe in deliberately as you do so.
My horse anticipates the transition.
Be careful not to stiffen or brace during the transitions. Occasionally, make sure you return to riding the whole arena or a different ring figure. You can also build in transitions of tempo within a gait.
My horse stumbles and is uneven in his rhythm.
Typically, a horse will only stumble when the hindquarters are inactive and the horse is traveling on his forehand. Try to encourage your horse to move forward with more push from behind. Build in exercises such as Trotting On from Backing Up (Exercise 7.1).
Heads Up! Just before stumbling, horses tend to lean against the reins. Ride your transitions so well that you don’t need to use the reins at all.
Precise Transitions Exercise 2— Transitions in the Aisle
With this exercise, you’ll train downward transitions or a simple change of lead.
What Do I Need?
2 ground poles.
Position the poles like an “alleyway” or “aisle” on either side of X, parallel to the short sides.
How Does This Exercise Work?
(1) Ride on a circle at any gait. As you cross X, execute a transition. The horse should be straight at the point of transition.
(2) Build in a change of direction at this point as well, so you are circling in the new direction. As you come through the aisle, you can change your gait.
Aids: For the circle, position the horse to the inside and use your outside rein to regulate him. Weight your inside seat bone and drive him forward with your legs. Look in the direction that you want to go.
Prepare the horse for the transition at least 5 meters ahead of time with a coming together of all the aids, in order to increase the horse’s attention. This way, at the desired point of transition, you should only need to apply a light aid in order to change the gait. Here, we’re referring to half-halts (see p..19). Breathe deeply through the belly as you transition to a new gait.
Heads Upl Following every direct application of the rein aids, there must be a release of the rein aids.
Tip: Support the transitions using voice commands that are familiar to your horse. Utilize your breath as an aid: for example, inhale deeply when you want to trot on and exhale as you ask for a downward transition.
In the change of direction, pay attention to the positioning of the horse at the point of change. Carefully use your new inside rein to position the horse in the new direction. Regulate the horse on the outside and send him forward. Shift your weight onto your new inside seat bone.
What Is the Horse Learning?
Transitions without depending on the rail. To activate his hindquarters. To respond with sensitivity to the rider’s aids.
What Is the Rider Learning? Correct riding on a circle. Precise transitions between the gaits. To coordinate the aids.
What to Do if…?
My horse anticipates the transitions.
Be sure to incorporate other exercises in between transitions. Ride through the aisle without executing a transition.
My horse halts too late. Be more specific with your aids. Don’t pull on the reins. Try again using voice commands and correct breathing. Practice!
Excerpted from, 50 Best Arena Exercises and Patterns copyright © 2015 Muller Ruschlikon Verlag, Stuttgart English translation © Trafalgar Square Books This excerpt reprinted by permission of Trafalgar Square Books