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Transitions in courtesy circles

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  • Transitions in courtesy circles

    I was curious to hear people's thoughts on how transitions are performed in the hunter/eq rings during courtesy circles. I see a lot of people these days go in at the trot, go down to the walk, then transition to the canter straight from the walk. It's obvious that a break in stride while on course is punished pretty harshly, so why are people breaking stride in the courtesy circle? You're still being judged- if you pull the wrong lead in the circle, you're dinged for it, so why is breaking stride in the way I described above not an issue? It clearly isn't a problem as I've seen people score in the high 80s using this method- I'm just curious about the mindset behind it.

  • #2
    I don’t believe there’s any rule about it. Sometimes it’s about habit - one less thing for a nervous rider to think about. Trot in the circle can show off a fancy mover. Or sometimes a trot to canter transition can look or feel rushed.


    • #3
      As a rider and a local level judge, I look for a smooth transition from trot to canter, so if that's done from a trot, great or from the walk/halt to a canter, great. A rushed, jangly trot-canter depart is not helpful so whatever works best for the pair in the ring. And at that point I'm getting my first impression so make it a good one! As far as I can tell, there's no rule about break of gait if you trot in then walk, then canter.
      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


      • #4
        The break in stride penalized on course is a break from the canter, the transitions you describe are prior to picking up the canter, I think that's a big part of the distinction. If you pick up the wrong lead, then break to the trot, and pick up the right lead, that's going to be penalized if the judge sees you. People choose to do it different ways based on what best suits them and the horse. Got a horse with a terrible trot? You are going to go straight from the walk to the canter to create the best first impression you can. Got a horse with a fancy trot? That one is going to trot to create that nice impression then either go straight to the canter or come back to the walk, depending on which will be the more organized transition. My horse has a nice trot, and likes to pick up the canter from there, so that's what I do.


        • #5
          If the course starts at the far end of the ring from the in gate, a brisk trot to get to the vicinity of the courtesy circle saves time, looks efficient and can show off a nice mover. For most horses, the trot to canter is a less than perfect transition as it is rarely "practiced" and usually just looks rushed. Essentially, the trot isn't part of the opening circle, it's just a method of getting TO the circle. It also serves to wake up a horse that has stood at the ingate for a few minutes snoozing and a means of establishing a connection to the rider and the task at hand, even if the course starts near the ingate. I generally regard the request for the canter as the start of the courtesy circle. You are (or may be) being judged from the moment you arrive in the ring, so whatever you do, try to do it efficiently and well.
          F O.B
          Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
          Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


          • #6
            Your courtesy circle should be first about doing whatever's necessary to set your horse up for the best round possible and second showing off any assets and hiding any weaknesses.

            On a nervous horse I need to settle, I'll take a bigger track, walk a little longer and give some pats, do some nice relaxed trot, and then pick up the canter however the horse stays relaxed most (some will settle through coming back to the walk, for some it's easier to slip into a canter from the trot).

            Some horses benefit from a downward transition to the walk and then a walk-canter transition to establish some balance and attentiveness.

            Some need to be encouraged to be fluid, so a nice trot for a few steps right into a nice flowing canter establishes the forward rhythm right off the bat.

            So to me, step one is figuring out how to utilize your courtesy circle to prepare your horse best. In addition to gait choice, does he need to bend to the inside a little and get super soft if he tends to get rigid and quick on course? Does he need to focus or relax? Is he naturally lazy or perhaps a spooker?

            In the hunters (and eq to an extent) if you are able to be a showman, refine your strategy to hide flaws or accentuate attributes. My mare does not have a great walk, so if she is relaxed enough, I want to go to a trot as quickly as possible to show that off. If she's staying mentally relaxed, I'll slip into a nice canter. If she's feeling nervous or distracted, I'll come back for a brief moment to the walk to reorganize and settle before going to the canter.

            Other horses have a poor trot, so riders prefer to go straight from the walk to a canter.

            The best riders (in all three rings, whether it's a courtesy circle or using your 45 seconds to the start) truly use that time and space smartly, rather than just grabbing a canter and having a go.
            Jennifer Baas
            It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


            • #7
              Originally posted by Madison View Post
              The break in stride penalized on course is a break from the canter, the transitions you describe are prior to picking up the canter, I think that's a big part of the distinction. If you pick up the wrong lead, then break to the trot, and pick up the right lead, that's going to be penalized if the judge sees you. People choose to do it different ways based on what best suits them and the horse. Got a horse with a terrible trot? You are going to go straight from the walk to the canter to create the best first impression you can. Got a horse with a fancy trot? That one is going to trot to create that nice impression then either go straight to the canter or come back to the walk, depending on which will be the more organized transition. My horse has a nice trot, and likes to pick up the canter from there, so that's what I do.
              This exactly. But also realize the hunter entrance is intended to be relaxed and harmonious, while the eq circle should demonstrate connection and promptness. The hunter is a lovely walk through the park with your boyfriend and the eq is "Yes, sir, Captain Eq Horse at your service!" For
              the latter, transitions need to be crisp and orderly, but not tense.

              Back in the day, before we had to walk in/out the gate, my favorite exit was to canter the closing circle until I was just opposite the gate, then make a quarter turn with a smart downward transition and trot directly out. I won more than a few Eq classes with that technique.
              Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.