Do you struggle to hold your horse when you ride from canter to trot? You’re not alone. It’s a common problem and one which is often made worse by the rider’s reaction – taking their leg off and pulling.
When your horse gets strong from canter to trot no matter what his temperament the cause is the same. He’s unbalanced. Any horse who tips onto his shoulders will always rush a downwards transition.
Pulling a horse in the mouth makes him tighten and hollow his back. If he does that he’ll stop using his hocks and tip onto his shoulders. Taking your leg off has the same effect. Do the two together and your horse has little choice but to run into trot.
It’s easy to focus on the actual transition but the problem stems from the pace before it. You need an exercise which helps your horse balance and makes him sit up and listen. Try this –
Canter a 15m circle in the C/M corner. The ¾ line should be your furthest point. Any horse can canter a circle of this size. It’s the size which balances your canter and helps you to produce a steady transition. Sit up and ride forward to give your horse the confidence he needs to get his hocks underneath him.
When your canter feels settled ride off the circle and onto a diagonal line from M to A. Your horse will think you’re going from M to K. Look at A and use plenty of right leg to keep him in line with it. He’ll listen because he’s not sure where he’s going. As you cross the ¼ line ask him to trot.
Never anticipate a problem. Keep your arms relaxed and your fingers moving on the reins so you can’t set against each other. Stay soft in your body, squeeze hard with your knee and thigh (Check out http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2010/12/other-way-of-stopping.html ) and ride forward.
It’s hard to kick on when you feel as if you’re being tanked off with but if you keep your knees in your leg will just tell your horse to use his hocks - not go faster. The further under his body they are the more control you’ll have.
When you reach A ride a 15m circle and pick up canter again. When your canter is settled ride across from K to C, asking for trot as you cross the ¼ line. (Make sure you change the rein regularly as this exercise focuses on one rein at a time.)
Rushing can become a habit. Your horse may find it hard to change. Try asking for some transitions to halt as you ride towards A and C. The fence will help to back him off. These transitions may not be world class but they will have a positive effect. You’ll be surprised how much control you’ll have once he’s anticipating stopping.
Poor transitions are usually caused by poor paces. Keep your horse balanced and focused and the transitions will take care of themselves.
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.