Downward Transitions: The Key to Control

Practicing downward transitions is the key to teaching a horse to be lighter in its forehand and being able to regulate the horse’s pace. To be effective in solving the problem, you must be sure to keep your legs on the horse’s sides during the downward transition, encouraging the animal to keep its hocks engaged so that the hindquarters will support some of the forehand weight; and you must perform half-halts with your hands, so that the animal will not find a fixed hand against which it can pull.

The following exercise will help you in gauging your success: Mentally divide the ring into four parts. Pick up the canter at your first quadrant, allow the horse to canter a few steps, then start your downward transition far enough away from the beginning of the second quadrant that you will be able to do all of the downward transition steps and all of the preparatory steps for the next canter before you reach the second quadrant. As the horse’s shoulder reaches the second quadrant, pick up the canter again. Perform this exercise at every quadrant, so that you will have accomplished four downward transitions every time that you go around the arena. After going around the arena once in a clockwise direction, change hands (i.e., change direction) and perform the same exercise while traveling counterclockwise. Do this exercise several times in each direction every day. This is a very valuable exercise that will not only teach your horse to be lighter in its forehand, but will also give you specific points at which to perform certain tasks, so that you’ll be able to gauge your horse’s progress.  

Note: If your arena is very small, you may have to mentally divide it into halves, rather than fourths, in order to provide enough room for the transitions.