The Ups and Downs

Why am I having trouble paying attention through my transitions [Show Report: Heathermoor]? Because they have never mattered before. Dressage is all about transitions. I have never been all about dressage. Hunter flat classes are judged on the quality of the horse’s gaits, not on the getting from one to the other.

Mostly, when I showed, I jumped.

A jumping trip has no relevant transitions. Be it hunter, jumper, or cross-country, the goal is to get a canter and keep it. At the start, you are given a long run-in to set up for the first fence. At the end, you are done. It does you no harm to collapse into a heap.

Sure, I’ve done thousands of transitions over the years, perhaps hundreds of thousands. Has each one been the best possible transition I could make at the time? No. Maybe you ride as precisely at home as you do in shows. Not I.

Last week, I had a lesson on transitions. Upward is all about the preceding gait. Downward is about reminding the horse to stay balanced. Bump, sit, release (or take-and-give in dressage terms). The horse downshifts on the release. It works. This is the virtue of a well-schooled lesson horse. When I did it right, Sam rewarded me by doing it right.

Gratuitous Cat Pic

Rhyme Percy roof 11 25 14

4 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs

  1. Hunter flat classes definitely take transitions into account. Smooth transitions matter there as much as anywhere else. A transition that isn’t seamless will stand out glaringly. Also, the judge is still watching when you finish your hunter round, and “collapsing in a heap” at the end of a nice round will hurt you. Lastly, depending on the location of the finish line on cross country, the last thing you want to do is collapse in a heap. If the finish line is on a down-hill slope like it was last weekend at River Glen, and you just collapse at the end, you stand a good chance of blowing a tendon on a tired horse. (This from the mouth of the upper-level coach running the course-walk).

  2. Interestingly enough, I strongly disagree with your position that in jumping transitions aren’t important. Part of it is semantic; I see the half halt and the ability to lengthen and shorten stride as being “transitions.” In the same way you transition from a collected trot to medium trot, or from a working gait to an extended gait, when you use the half halt on course to shorten your horses stride, and increase power from behind, or lengthen the stride to achieve a distance, you are “transitioning.”

  3. Transitions are about balance. As Ellen remarked, half halts are a subtle form of transition – a reminder to both horse and rider to stay balanced while changing gaits or lengthening or shortening stride. In order to have a smooth transition, the horse (and the rider) must be balanced.

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