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Downward transition problems

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  • Downward transition problems

    Let me start by giving some background info. I have just started dressage. I have taken maybe 6 or 7 lessons at this point. We seem to be progressing nicely. We are now working on getting UP into the bridle. My horse has a few favorite evasions- curling btv and falling forward and leaning on the bridle. My trainer has had us start working on half-halts and lifting up the front end. It's not been the easiest but I have been experimenting and have found if I give a little tug on the outside rein and tighten my abs and lift my seat a little up and forward my half halts have become lighter and more effective. That being said how do I differentiate a half halt and downward transition cue to my horse? We have a leaning forward problem at the downwards so I have been half halting before asking for a trot-walk transition. However, instead of going to a walk he is super loading the back and continuing to trot. Any thoughts? Do I continue to hold half halt until he walks (which becomes a fight) or should I pick up some inside rein and ask for downward with both reins? Unfortunately, I won't be seeing my trainer for a few weeks and would like to work on this in the interim. Any exercises or advice would be appreciated!

  • #2
    Start moving your seat as though you were already walking. He'll match it.
    "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer


    • #3
      I have trouble with your description of the half halt. I try to explain it as a stilling of the following seat, which includes holding with the abs, and sinking in the saddle for a heartbeat. The lower leg must stay on, so that the hind end continues to come under to complete that momentary rebalance. The hands should not have much influence except to continue through the fingers to ask for "round' to continue.

      When asking for a downward the rider continues to hold in the seat and abs, but the lower leg must still stay on, so that when the change in rhythm to walk occurs, the rider is ready to support that new rhythm with her seat and the relaxation of the abs. Meanwhile the fingers support the roundness to a lesser or greater degree depending on the horse.

      Sinking in the saddle in no way is thrusting forward.

      Yup, it takes timing and coordination, and it can be done.
      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


      • Original Poster

        I can see what you mean about my description. I'm just figuring it out so I am having problems verbalizing what I am doing. I'm not realling swinging my hips forward but when I tighten my my abs, my hips minutely angle up when my butt sinks down. I see what you are saying with the legs and seat though. Good point. I'll have to focus on that. I've spastically broken the rebalance into four steps: position, half halt, release, push through. Unfortunately, I haven't yet developed the timing to really do it quickly. it usually takes a couple strides from beginning to end. People are staring at me while I ride as I loudly say the steps as I do them!! If I miss a step or mis-time one I keep repeating it aloud louder and lounder until I get it. All those hunter folks snicker at the crazy girl riding around yelling at herself. So basically I need to do steps 1 through 3 only? I think my own anal nature may getting in the way here! Why are the simplest things always the hardest?!!


        • #5
          The push through never stops, even though your seat does for heartbeat. You do not want a pause in the forward energy.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            lots of walk/trot/halt transitions on a 20 meter circle(not necessarily in that order, switching it up keeps your horse from leaning on the bridle and makes him balance himself more). when doing a downward transition to halt, keep pushing with the leg all the way through the transition and keep your seat still and firm in the saddle. I've found that keeping my body still and a strong leg are really important to all downward transitions..


            • #7
              I am assuming this is your horse and th ehorse is also new to dressage?

              I agree with Kinnip that the seat is very important. There is a different seat structure for the different gaits.

              If your horse is also new to dressage, he will need to learn to be sensitive to your body. To help the horse use your voice commands: "walk - trot - canter". If the horse doesn;t know the voice commands teadch them on the lunge.


              • Original Poster

                Aha! That makes perfect sense. Can't wait for these storms to break so I can try that. What do you mean by different seat structures? Back in the day I used to ride hunters so I've been working hard to change the butt push position. Do you mean in the way you weight the seat bones? I've been watching alot of dressage videos and have noticed that dressage riders sit deeper and more upright. When I try it I tend to fall back too far on the back of the saddle and end up behind the motion and over pushing with my seat. Is work with no stirrups in order? Are there particular rider torture exercises that will help with that, mounted or unmounted? Thanks for allowing me to pick your brains!!


                • #9
                  Mary Wanless has good descriptions in her dvds. But basically think of your pelvis as mobile and with the ability to move Left and right seat bones independently of each other.

                  In the halt the horse does not move and the seat is still. In the walk, trot and canter, the horse moves his back in a different motion for each gait - the seat should follow the motion. So when I want to make a transition from canter to trot. I stop following the canter with my inside seat bone. With my 2 horses, this is essentially all I have to do to make this transition.

                  This is best to learn if the rider can be on the lunge line - so you dont have to concentrate on everything else.

                  Also you should never be grinding with your seat it is only one of your aids


                  • #10
                    Different Seats

                    When I think of the different seats for each gait, I think of these ideas, always thinking to mirror the horses hip motions with your own, as the above poster said--with independent left and right seat bones (hips).

                    Walk: not the pumping seat you see many people do where the whole pelvis moves forward and back. Think about how you walk yourself, when you really swing your hips, like a "sexy" type walk. That is the motion, but toned down to match your horses stride...although eventually you can modify the stride depending on how big you swing your hips. Left hip..right hip..left hip..right hip. You want to feel loose and able to rotate each side of your pelvis with your horses hind legs. When you feel that forward-backward pumping happening, that's you keeping motion with your horses forehand as he pulls through each shoulder.

                    Sitting trot: imagine yourself jogging in the saddle, similar to the walk you need to move each hip with the horses corresponding hip. It is not: sit, sit, sit, sit; but rather: left, right, left, right, left right. When you loosen your pelvis to follow the actual rotation of your horses pelvis, and LOOSEN your thighs away from the saddle, truly deep sitting becomes easy. (Assuming your horse is over his back...)

                    Canter: like someone above said, you follow the swing of the inside hind, with your inside seatbone/hip; think of when you were a kid, pretending to canter on the ground. It's an asymetrical movement, just as it is for the horses hind legs, one always landing in front of the other.

                    In no way do I mean that you should shove or grind or push your seatbones into your horses back. Use these ideas to follow your horses hind leg/pelvic motion and then you can adjust his stride length/tempo/etc by instead asking him to mirror your motion.

                    If you can't feel the left/right motion of the hind legs; try this at the walk, then sitting trot and finally canter...maintain an open upright upper body posture and lean back a little as your horse walks. Focus on feeling the left, right in the back of your butt. Look up towards the treeline or ceiling of your indoor and think about loosening your hips...you will need your abs so you don't go too far back! Keep in mind that if you are coming from the hunters, you may feel farther back than you really are! Use mirrors or a ground person to check your vertical angle. Once you feel that hind leg step, follow it with your swingy pelvis and sit back up to a normal seat, still following. Go back and forth a few times until you can feel it all the time while sitting normally.

                    Hope this helps!
                    Thoroughbred Placement Resources, Inc


                    • #11
                      Make sure there is enough difference between your "trotting" body position and walk. I think of it this way--at the trot, my thighs are relaxed and my legs are draped. My core is solid. I'm following the motion. When I want a walk, I put my thigh on and go still for a moment in my body. The combination of adding the thigh and stilling the body is different enough that the horse gets it: "aha, time to walk."

                      When I don't get a good down transition, I find that I am too tight in my thigh at the trot already, so I'm sending the horse alot of white noise. But when I keep my trot position "open" and my transition-to-walk position "closed," the horse is immediate in his response, because the difference is crystal clear.

                      The horse needs to feel a difference.
                      2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                      Our training journal.
                      1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                      I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                      • #12
                        When you ask for a HH you are asking for a Halt (both reins), then "relaxing" at the last moment to allow them to continue forward.

                        So for downward transitions I prefer to use inside leg into outside rein and "hold" the contact as long as necessary. For a center/walk I sit really deep and press straight down into BOTH stirrups, then when she steps underneath herself to halt I ease (relax) reains to allow a step forward. Once I get one step I use legs to press her more firmly into rein contact to continue walking - but be careful NOT to throw away the reins or horse could start trotting and/or fall onto nose.
                        Now in Kentucky


                        • #13
                          I think a lot of what people are saying might be more than you want to think about right now - dressage is cerebral but we humans should take it in steps - and I tend to make sure riders are not thinking of more than 3 things. I look at it as dancing. The basic steps you must think about so dont bombard yourself with 10 new things. Practice 3 basic things until they are like dancing - you do it - you dont think about it so much.

                          You are new to dressage - your horse is too (?). So what I would do if I was your instructor is: 1. put someone on the horse who will use / listen to the aids correctly. It is worth the expense because it is easier to learn the feel of a half halt if your horse reacts correctly. and 2. go on the lunge and work on your independent seat - there are a lot of exercises to help you sit more into your seat - with KIDS I teach them these basic ones - I have a few adults too and they say they need to do this as they warm up their horses in the walk - of course no stirrup point flex point flex of the ankles but to really stretch the inside muscles of your legs from pelvis /thigh down. Then a frog sit - lift knees up and feel the back of your tush on the saddle. A lot of men/boys I have taught even in jumping know how to use this part of their tush because they cant roll forwrad onto their pelvic bone as that is very uncomfortable for them - btu a lot of girls learned hunter first learn to perch on their pelvic bone. We already curl up somewhat into fetal position often when we feel insecure so new riders often scrunch up instead of open up. And I bring their legs back behind the saddle (foot) and the thigh then points down. STRETCH down into the knee - this will open the pelvis.

                          These are simple stretches we do to open up our lower bodies and get more into our horses. I have them walk a long time when they start riding so this gives the rider something to do! We also do upper body stretches which actually are great FOR your seat too because you learn to have seat and upper body move independent of each other. And it feels good!

                          Lastly - for your level too if you want to start practice waiting for the instructor to come home - since your aids are not likely on time or completely correct - and your horse is guessing too - practice walk trot transitions and walk halt transitions - and halt back transitions - USE YOUR VOICE and do it at X. Its ok if the horse anticipates in this particular situation because once you have the action communicated and you get the feel and he starts understanding what you are asking - then you can ask for the transition all around the arena at different places.

                          I do that with green horses sometimes if they are worriers so the 'I get it' light comes on and they feel great - those horses need confidence to be able to think. I cant teach them if they are not thinking.


                          • Original Poster

                            I understand the looser thigh at trot and firming for walk. However, I am still riding the trot rising as we are still working on a loose, supple back. We still have some tightness in the topline issues. I'm having a hard time visualizing draping the leg as I am posting. Even if we are not "over the hump" as it were and consistently moving through the back is it is still acceptable to sit the trot for a quite a few strides to organize the transition better or should I timing it when I sit during the post? I have been trying to change my seat as well but boy, is it slow going. I'm finding it hard to focus on it without over-focusing on it and overdoing it.


                            • Original Poster

                              Excellent advice Lara- thank you!! We are both new. I admit the coordination required is a bit mind-boggling. I like the frog seat and stretching exercises. It will probably help immensely. I'm missing a lower lumbar disc in my back so I tend to get stiff. Why didn't I think of stretching before? Neither my instructor nor I really have a horse to take a lunge lesson on but I suppose I can school it on my horse at the walk. I can just imagine the comments from passers-bys!!


                              • #16
                                For the trot-walk transition, I think you can sit for 3 or 4 strides to get your transition organized. If the very act of sitting makes your horse hollow, then work on going back and forth between sitting for 3 strides, posting for 3, sitting for 3, etc until YOU can make the transition between sitting and posting in sync with his back and not make him hollow or otherwise change his frame. Remember though, there is a big difference between sitting like a hunter and sitting like a dressage rider. Organizing him for a correct downward transition requires the latter. Your back must be loose and swinging to allow his to do the same.

                                I think it's far too hard especially at your stage in the game to try and time your transition in the down phase of posting!

                                Again, these are just my opinions/experiences.
                                Thoroughbred Placement Resources, Inc


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by kinnip View Post
                                  Start moving your seat as though you were already walking. He'll match it.
                                  How experienced is your horse? This does not work with my filly. But good idea if your horse knows what weight in the saddle means.

                                  Try using voice aids to help him connect with what you are asking, he sounds apprehensive.

                                  Like Kinnip said if you can, sit deep and tall and say "waalllkk", if you need help with the reins use little wiggles side to side, not pulling, wide hands.

                                  Worse come to worse.... my old TB did what you describe, use a wall. They will learn to stop.

                                  Good Luck!