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  1. #1
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    Mar. 28, 2011
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    Default Canter to walk transition

    Can someone give me a detailed explanation/ break down of the rider aids for the canter-walk transition?

    My results are fairly inconsistent and I'm really over-thinking it which leads to me sometimes bracing everywhere and not getting it at all. This is not a problem with my horse at all as he has amazing walk-canter-walk transitions when ridden by my trainer or when I somehow manage to get it correct. He is also quite a powerful moving horse, which is probably contributing to my over thinking the transition.


    Any help will be much appreciated by my very tolerant horse!



  2. #2
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    Jul. 11, 2006
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    What level is your horse? Are you riding in a snaffle? Do you have a tendency for your left hand to turn inward? Do you ride with your toes pointed downward? What aids are you using for your walk to canter transition? When you ride the canter, is there a little flop of your seat at the end of each stride?



  3. #3
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    Mar. 28, 2011
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    Right now we're getting 70%+ at recognized training, with plans to move up to 1st soon, possibly the next show. He has at least a very solid base in all the lateral work at all gaits. Riding in a snaffle. One of my worst vices is that I move/ play with my hands too much when riding. Toes pointed slightly upwards, but not as much as when I used to ride equitation. Also, I also have the tendency to brace my knees when asking for downward transitions. My butt stays in the saddle though. My horse now has excellent self-carriage at the canter and I have a light contact with the reins.

    Right now I think I'm half halting to get a smaller stride and then I sit tall, lighten my seat, close upper legs and then close my hands on the reins. Correct or not?



  4. #4
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    Jan. 30, 2010
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    I went through this with my mare when we began showing Second a couple of years ago. If your horse has spot-on transitions with your trainer, then you're likely the culprit here (much like I was...and still am!). I had a super hard time bracing my body and relying too much on my hands (even when I thought I was being light), thus causing my mare to stiffen and take those few dreaded trot steps in between. So frustrating! I even got to the point where I had great success with the transitions on a circle (helped likely by the natural bend) but fell apart when I had to ask for the transition across the diagonal or on a straight line. Again, too much bracing and too strong of a hand.

    What has really worked for me is to make a conscious effort not to block with my hands, particularly my inside rein. To prepare a few strides out by half halting and sitting tall and deep in the saddle - you must collect the canter enough to seamlessly transition to an active walk, and as you already know (and are over thinking, like I do) it comes from your seat, not blocking anywhere else in your body.

    At any rate, for me it's all about being aware of all the moving pieces - I almost have to envision moving my seat from the rhythm of the canter to the feel of the walk and avoid trying to force the transition with my hands. Voila - lovely transitions!

    We were still a work in progress even when we started to school Third - but now that we've backed down our level of work a bit, I'm starting to go back in and fill in some holes and really focus on my own issues. I can empathize with the over-thinking bit, for sure!
    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

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  5. #5
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    Feb. 2, 2011
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    Default

    I had a really bad habit to brace with my upper legs during downward transitions, which I always thought was the right thing to do - in reality all it did was pop me out of the saddle so I couldn't sit deep (the transition happened through my reins only). What really helped was riding trot-halt-trot transitions and really learning to not rely on my reins and act through my seat alone.

    What I do is half halt, keep my legs on so that my horse is still coming through, take a deep breath, and stop following the motion of the canter. For each horse it's different, so take my advice with a grain of salt



  6. #6
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    May. 4, 2005
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    Southern CA
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    You're probably over-thinking it and as a result, over-riding. Nailing this transition really relies on the right timing of when to ask for the walk. Think to yourself "Anddd Walk" where the "anddd" happens in the moment of the canter stride as the neck drops down away from you and the "walk" happens as the neck comes back up toward you.
    Yes half halt to prepare, no don't brace and all of the other suggestions already made but really, the great canter-walk transition happens because of the right timing and this will hold true in the flying changes as well.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
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    Aug. 28, 2007
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    Triangle Area, NC
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    I do the same thing CKD does.
    Hh, lower legs back, close thigh = walk
    Hh, close thigh= trot
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2005
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    Lightbulb Bracing Knees

    Bracing your knees does several things. Even though you think your butt is in the saddle, the stiffened knees will affect your butt's usefulness, and lighten its actual weight in the saddle.

    The second thing it does is prevent you from using your lower leg. It holds your leg away from the horse. The same thing can occur if you work too hard to keep your toes forward. Your lower leg is a vital part of the h/h and all downward transitions.

    If you bend your knees, it will allow your lower leg to stay in contact with the horse's sides keeping the hind end active, and bringing the hind end under. The degree of contact, and the timing are critical to the type of transition you get.

    A h/h takes a momentary closing of your thigh and stopping of your seat, while the legs remain on and perhaps a slight closing if the fingers. If you hold it until you can feel it happening, you usually will end up with a downward transition rather than an uplifting h/h. Take your legs off, and you lose the gathering effect and simply get a slowing.

    The same with transitions. Keeping your legs on, keeps your transitions forward, and will allow you to immediately lift off into an upward. This exercise is very useful for keeping a horse light on the forehand.

    Too much hand in any of this will also lose you the lightness in front.
    Last edited by merrygoround; Jan. 28, 2013 at 02:10 PM. Reason: spelliing
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  9. #9
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    Oct. 13, 2006
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    I would try to sit very still in walk but focus on anything that could be tight before you ask. Sit up and check that nothing is tight but you are very tall so the horse feels something is going to change.

    Ask the horse onto the aids check you leg and HH and have your trainer show you how to have the horse clearly on all aids in walk so that when you bring your leg on the horse simply is ready. Think about the hind legs and have control over each step and then do a very soft cue for canter with inside hand giving.

    If the horse does not take it correctly rather than just going with it start over and put the horse even MORE on the aids until he/she is going from barely a whisper.

    A lot of horses delay their reaction which throws the rider off who was ready when they sent the aid and it brings them behind the horse. Another thing is they dont give the inside enough.
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
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  10. #10
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    Jul. 11, 2006
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    Default

    Are you, by any chance, still riding in a forward seat saddle, or do you have a regular dressage saddle? Are you riding your first level lengthening in sitting trot or posting trot?



  11. #11
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    Oct. 21, 2011
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    Make sure your knees and thighs are relaxed and laying softly against the saddle. I have found it very useful in training my body to look staight up at the sky or lights in the arena, your neck needs to be all the way back, then engage my Lower core muscles. Important you engage the lower muscles. If I need additional help, I close outside hand in a fist, then release. I do not hold the outside rein in a constant fist. Give/release immediatly after the transition.



  12. #12
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    Feb. 16, 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by FEI1Day View Post
    You're probably over-thinking it and as a result, over-riding. Nailing this transition really relies on the right timing of when to ask for the walk. Think to yourself "Anddd Walk" where the "anddd" happens in the moment of the canter stride as the neck drops down away from you and the "walk" happens as the neck comes back up toward you.
    This is great advice! I was struggling with the opposite problem of rushing during canter departs and read some great advice to "Think Canter" from another COTH member. I find the more decisive and clear my mental image is that something WILL happen, the quieter my aids are, resulting in smoother transitions.



  13. #13
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    Mar. 28, 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by angel View Post
    Are you, by any chance, still riding in a forward seat saddle, or do you have a regular dressage saddle? Are you riding your first level lengthening in sitting trot or posting trot?
    Have my super fancy custom dressage saddle now, so not forward balance. While I can ride the lengthening in sitting trot, we tend to get a better result in posting.


    And I am totally over-thinking this, as I stated previously, my horse is most definitely not the issue. They used to be easy until I learned all these new fancy aids for everything and my horse got the strength to move like the big-time horse he wants to be. Also, I think I'm in the stage of constantly second guessing myself if I'm doing things correctly.



  14. #14
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    Jan. 3, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
    I do the same thing CKD does.
    Hh, lower legs back, close thigh = walk
    Hh, close thigh= trot
    I was working on C-W-C, too - with inconsistent results. Often we'd be spot on and things would feel easy and wonderful, but sometimes we'd get a trot step or 2. After I read the CKD article, I tried being more conscious of where I had my lower leg as I was preparing for transitions (both between and within gaits). For the C-W transition, as Petstorejunkie summarized:
    * Halfhalt, lower legs back, close thigh = walk
    * Hh, close thigh= trot


    It was an instant & complete success! My horse seemed so pleased that I was finally clarifying exactly what I wanted.
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  15. #15
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    There is no such thing as overthinking what you are doing. In fact, you'd best be thinking about it very hard. You should especially be thinking about what your body is doing up there.

    The reason I asked about your trot lengthening is it gives me an idea as to whether you are correctly balancing. The answer you have given me is that you are not. Your pelvis is tipping forward. When this happens, you are putting extra weight on your horse's forehand, which tends to crash him into the walk. Your body knows the crash is coming, so you brace, which makes the crash even worse. Your horse is probably jogging a few steps into the walk...yes?

    The other thing that you do not want to hear from me is that you should not yet even be trying to do that canter/walk transition. This is a sitting trot transition, and you have already told me that your sitting trot is not yet there. When you try to skip learning the skills needed for First Level, and try to do Second Level, you must resort to hand riding. This pulls your horse onto his forehand even more. This is the reason that people get into so much trouble with Second Level, and beyond, where so much is seen in the ring of riders hanging on their curb bits.

    I am going to suggest some controversial things for you...and others who might be reading this thread. First of all, you are probably trying to carry your hands too close together for this level...and for perhaps any level. It depends on the width of your pelvis as to how wide the hands should be carried. When the hands are kept too close together, you will not be able to feel if your horse is situated correctly between the reins, and therefore, you will not halfhalt correctly for the horse's crookedness. This also plays a part in any of your transitions, because you have not correctly balanced the horse before the transition. An approximate gage of your hands would be that they should fall an on imaginary line that runs from the side of the bit to your hipbone. This means your hands should be closer together than the distance between your hipbones, but not as close together as the width of the bit.

    You will know when the distance is correct because suddenly you will have a much better feel of where the horse is moving between the reins. This will make it much easier for you to correct the horse's balance with only wrist action, rather than whole arm action which compromises your core balance. When your hands are too close together, it also makes it easier for one of your shoulder blades to move too far away from your spine, and this makes for many more balance problems.

    So what we need to fix first to correct your core balance is to get your seatbones rounded under you a bit better...think lift hipbones, which might help. Then, we need your hands slightly wider apart, to help you from losing your shoulders. Your seat is not yet dealing with the suspension of the horse correctly either. All I will say in that department is that the seat needs a bit of a push down, similarly to the the extra push you are giving the horse as you come down from the post in order to do a sucessful lengthening. In the canter it is not as extreme, but should still be there. IF it is not, you will either flop at the end of each canter stride, or you will brace in the stirrups. Doing such, really kills your sitting trot, and even more so your transition from posting to sitting. There are so many important skills for the rider in First Level, and most people just do not understand. This business of allowing posting trot in First Level is really bad!!!!! The reason is because the rider is not developing the riding skills needed for Second. You don't just start Second and suddenly are able to sit the gaits correctly. Yes, I am on my soap box.

    Now I am going to really try to help you with that transition about which you asked, even though you should not yet be trying to do it...yes, my opinion. It has to do with teaching the horse to correct respond to the action of the snaffle bit. The snaffle bit is a bit of finesse, not a hammer as the curb bit is. You want to be able to use the snaffle in such a fashion as that it only takes a flexible wrist action to achieve the halfhalt. Most riders are not correctly taught to use the snaffle, which is an art unto itself. A lot of the incorrectness comes also from half-truths, or incomplete truths taught...things such as the rider's thumbs should stay on top, and the hands should be close together...even to the point of tieing the thumbs together.

    Now we talked about the hands being too close together being a partial reason for the shoulder blades not being correct in relationship to your spine. The other thing that happens is that one of the rider's hands starts to rotate inward as the rider's elbow on that side more outward. The rotated hand compromises the correct use of the snaffle, and therefore, the correct aids.

    The snaffle is designed to be used on one side at a time only, and if you want a horse that is light and can be ridden correctly off the seat, you do not ride with your thumbs only on top. Thumbs on top is only for riding a straight line.

    I shall write more about the snaffle a little later today. I need to go do barn chores and feed right now.


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  16. #16
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    We are going to make some further assumptions when discussing the nuanced snaffle aids. We need to assume that the rider is sitting correctly, and that the rider can feel the incorrect balance of the horse. The rider also needs to be able to utilize the rotation of her "core" (torso) in order to augment a weight aid, i.e. be able to weight a stirrup to a greater degree in order to help the horse's diagonal shoulder rise to a greater degree. Discussing this is a another great long post, so we are not going there right now. Back to the snaffle.

    I have already said that the snaffle correction should be done on one side only, and that the horse's body should feel as if it is centered between the reins...not against one or the other...because if that is so, we need a half-halt.

    When we keep the horse correctly between the snaffle, our thumbs/hands/wrists especially, will rotate slightly or to a greater degree if we need a particular correction for the half halt. Let's assume we have that beautifully trained, balance horse, and we can use the nuanced snaffle. As we ride a circle, our thumbs should point the circle...still with the wrist as if we were riding with thumbs on top, but the wrist rotates slightly to the left or the right depending on the directional rotation of the circle we are riding. If the thumbs stay on top, we are riding a completely straight line in walk or trot, such as across the diagonal, and we would be doing this in a regular or collected gait. The important thing to remember is that neither wrist rotates inward, because if it does, it will block the horse's shoulder on that side, and the horse will begin to drift in the direction that the given wrist has rotated.

    The rotation of the wrist can also be used to change the length of the stride. By keeping those thumbs directly on top, we maintain the regular/collected stride in walk or trot. However, if we want to lengthen/extend the stride, our thumbs must rotate slightly forward which thereby lengthens the reins a tad, giving the horse more room through which to step. This is done without having to take the whole arm forward out of balance with the torso. More rotation forward=longer stride, and this comes without losing the ability to drive with the core to create the energy needed to power that longer stride. When the rider's arm is taken forward, such as you sometimes do when first training, you lose part of the power of your seat. This is the reason that lengthenings are generally taught at the beginning with the use of the posting trot...because you can use the nuanced snaffle without taking your arms forward because you can create a greater push through your seat as you come down from the post.

    So we understand that we can use forward or up change in the wrist to change the length of the stride. We can also use a slightly rotation to the left or the right as we create a circle. We want to keep the horse between the reins. How we use the reins will determine how a horse's shoulders elevate within the stride provided that our weight aids are correct.

    Now the canter is a bit of an odd beast. It is much more unstable in the balance, and it requires that the inside shoulder be up and forward and the outside shoulder stay down and back, with just a hint of rotation toward the "up" shoulder. We need to be sure that the thumb of our inside hand stays on top. A rotated wrist on the inside will block the inside shoulder, preventing the horse to properly take the canter lead for that side.

    Think about what this means for your transition between walk and canter, or canter to walk. Walk needs both thumbs on top, canter needs the inside thumb on top and the outside thumb very slightly rotated to the inside. This has to change for the transition to work. In the canter to walk transition, let's say from left lead to walk, the rider's left thumb needs to be up (and maybe just a hint rotated forward for a green horse), and the right thumb needs to be rotate very slightly inward. Now, the transition to walk, the rider must change to a position of both thumbs on top again...walk, walk, walk...now the wrists rotate the opposite direction for the up transition to right lead canter. By the way, remember that for the elevated shoulder on the inside, we need weight in the diagonal stirrup, the outside one. Leaning forward into the canter is also a big no, no.

    Let's talk a minute about where the training should have gone, and where it will progress. In intro, your goal is to get the horse to correctly respond to the nuanced snaffle in order to maintain the circle correctly or the straight line correctly in either walk or trot. To do this, the horse must also learn to relax its jaw to the bit on either side of its mouth. This is the relaxation to the bit. If the horse does not relax to the bit, it will push out against the bit on that side, and cannot respond to the nuances. Training is all about teaching the horse to respond to light aids, and for that sometimes, the aids must be a bit more, though not to a great extreme more. This the take and release of which we speak.

    Training Level assumes the above training, and in addition, the added confusion of the canter in which we have the bit on one side doing something different than the other side. Tiny change in the nuances, and also a change in the degree of use of the rider's weight aids. Still pretty tame work.

    First Level starts to get more complicated yet, because it is here that the horse is taught the change in the length of the stride. The rider also needs the sitting trot for this, at least near the end of First in my opinion, as the rider needs that sitting trot for the Second Level work. Most horses/riders have not prepared this level correctly, so...

    Second Level becomes much more problematic. In Second, we should have the nuanced snaffle because now we need to teach the horse the lateral weight aids, which really started to some degree with the canter work. But, in Second you cannot just muddle through it, as so many of us, myself included, have learned.

    Where do we go? Only more and more built upon this foundation. You asked specifically about the canter/walk transition. This transition...this nuanced snaffle training....is the beginning of your half-pass to flying change transition. The problem that you have uncovered...the skill that is not complete yet...is the reason that most riders find that the flying change from left lead halfpass to right lead canter is easier than the other direction. It is the reason that riders find the halfpass left harder, and tend to get their right leg back 'way too far with lots of spur to keep the horse moving through its blocked left shoulder.

    There is no such thing as over thinking. Always remember that, and you will become a better trainer. No rider sits a horse without being a trainer. You are always training something up there...for better or worse.

    One more quick thought...the wrist rotated inward blocks a shoulder. So when do we want to block both shoulders? When ever we want to block forward motion.


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  17. #17
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    Mar. 22, 2011
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    Great advice here!
    Everyone is different in how they use their aids and body. Ask your training how she/he does it first to get an idea so you can translate it over to yourself. You can alter it slightly to what works best for you and your horse but if it works for your trainer while riding your horse, they are likely spot on. Good place to start!

    As a precursor I had been working on my transitions through my seat versus hands. Then worked up to canter-walk which translates over quite well.
    I recently taught my 5 y/o this, she still needs a lot of balancing but it is improving greatly.
    I go on a 20m circle, to help my mare balance and sit back on her haunches naturally, I then think wrap my legs around her barrel, straighten through my spine, half halt, half halt, keep leg on to maintain the forward energy, waiting until you 'feel' the walk, (while in canter), before asking by sitting a bit deeper and release slightly through your hands as you feel your horse straightening through their back to walk.
    Repeat the thought, Canter into walk.

    Many people get stuck on hands and forget the release which can confuse your horse and he won't get the reward of the proper actions.


    Good luck, it will take time until you have an 'ah-hah' moment then after you get this, it will come more often.
    Last edited by pryme_thyme; Jan. 29, 2013 at 12:14 PM. Reason: Spelling



  18. #18
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    In thinking about this post today as I was riding, I need to make one thing more clear. When you rotate the wrist/thumb forward, it momentarily shortens the reins. Then, as your relax the rein again, though not bringing it back to point completely up, you allow the horse to take the longer stride. Generally, this rotation will occur through the left rein because most horses are hollow to the right. This means that the diagonal from the left shoulder to the right hind tends to get stretched, so first we reshorten it, and then allow it to go back to the correct length. I hope this makes what I posted a bit more clear.


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