“100 Transitions”

Over lunchtime I was reading a very old copy of a well known equine magazine, in which they were interviewing Carl Hester.

The magazine was so old they were talking about the run up to the Olympics. But I digress.

In his interview Carl stated, as I’ve heard before, that you should aim to ride 100 transitions per schooling session. Now that’s a hell of a lot.

So I tried to work out how many I did in each session.
The initial walk period I probably do four halt transitions, and then perhaps five lengthening or shortening in the walk to get my horse concentrating on me and not his BFF in the stable. A couple of rein backs, Moving into trot. I don’t think I do more than 15 transitions to walk over the whole schooling session. But I probably do ten transitions to halt. Then within the trot, probably up to 20 transitions. But that’s only really because I’m focusing on his medium work. As a rough guess you can repeat these numbers for the canter work, then subtract some as I don’t spend as much time in canter at the moment, giving a grand total of ninety transitions. And that’s when I’m really thinking about riding them!

So then I tried to think of ways to incorporate them more; there’s no point just saying “I’m going to ride five transitions on this rein then change it” because they end up being sloppy. An exercise I use for groups to stop them copying the rider in front is to make them ride a transition at each dressage letter.

Another exercise I’m quite into at the moment, which is great for working the seat, is to ride a ten metre circle in each corner of the school in trot. Across the letters E and B ride a transition to walk and then back into trot. At A and C ride a transition to halt. Horses have to focus on the rider, it teaches them to think independently and I get closer to my goal of 100 transitions! Serpentines with transitions over the centre line are an easy way to boost numbers too.

An Interesting Question

I teach a middle aged man who comes for an intensive riding day every couple of weeks; he`s lovely, and you can really see him progressing. Today I was amazed to see his sitting trot without stirrups – long legs, deep seat, that Carl Hester would be proud of. But today we had a breakthrough, we started doing leg yield and in the process of the two hour morning session I got him feeling how the horses were going, correcting them himself, thinking about how to improve them, the horse`s weaknesses and strengths, etc. Even in the canter he managed to balance the canter which meant that he could really sit into it. It`s such a great feeling of achievement!

But what I like most about teaching him is that he is very methodical and logical, and often it takes a couple of explanations. Sometimes he`ll just stop mid exercise to check which leg is doing what. I find it helps me clarify my explanations and also makes me think about what I`m saying rather than just regurgitating last weeks spiel. Today I was asked this;

“Which is the correct diagonal when you`re hacking? I mean, in the school it`s obvious, but what do you use to guide you onto the diagonal?”

It`s a good one; I explained about circles and the outer foreleg travelling further forward and the inside hind coming under to take more weight, so it helps the horse to alleviate our weight when they`re doing this. I then went on to the fact the in the school we should talk about correct or incorrect diagonals (using the outside leg) and then when hacking have right and left diagonals. Ultimately it doesn`t matter which you rise on, but the horse will accommodate this and develop more muscle and become one sided therefore you are better to alternate you diagonals regularly.

He was satisfied with this answer and I know now to use the terms left, right, correct, incorrect!