Trot-canter transitions

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Trot-canter transitions

This is a discussion on Trot-canter transitions within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category

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  • 1 Post By Alpinerider

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    10-06-2013, 11:08 PM
Trot-canter transitions

I have a very basic problem and am hoping for some insight!

Sitting pretty during the medium trot-to-canter transition. I struggle with it! A while back (while I was focusing on muscling up my gelding), I encountered the fact that my horse had become very one-sided and was having horrible trouble with his left lead from a trot. Among other solutions, the one that was truly effective came from a friend who told me to get off of his back instead of sitting deep. Now, I don't mean two-point-- I just mean lightening my seat and lifting my butt off of his back so that his first canter stride rises into me. Basically, I lift myself and he lifts himself into the canter, allowing me to sink down into the stride and follow him. I hope this makes sense!

While this works and is a fine solution as far as effectiveness goes, it has also allowed me to escape learning how to sit deep and balance him (instead of getting off of his back and allowing him to balance himself) into the correct lead from a trot. I also believe that it isn't correct to lighten your seat into an upward transition (?). Now when I sit into the transition, it doesn't feel smooth and even on a bend he might pick up the wrong lead (I assume it's partly my throwing him off balance).

Can anyone give me some insight on what I'm doing? I try to sit the trot as much as possible and work stirrupless (that's a given!). I've been told a prompt transition from trot-to-canter minimizes the amount of time you have to bounce along, but I think it's more fair to sit, signal that something's coming and then ask (maybe 2 strides) so that he can be prepared for the transition.

Another option relates to my saddle (but then I feel that's an excuse). I ride in a Wintec Pro Dressage that has a rather wide twist and open seat, and I'm told it can make sitting the trot difficult. I don't know if there's any credibility to this since I haven't ridden in many other saddles. Just throwing ideas out there!

Any advice is appreciated!
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    10-07-2013, 12:41 AM

Hi there!

Sometimes its good to remind ourselves that sitting deep doesn't mean sitting "heavy." I've also never been told to lighten my seat, exactly, in a transition. If anything, I sit deep and drive in with my seat to get my horse moving forward into the canter. Sitting deeper also doesn't mean leaning back-then you get behind your horses motion.

The first thing that comes to mind to help is half-halts. Before asking for a canter, I'll do a small half-halt in the trot, and then give an aid for the canter. The half-halt will help balance your horse and also help ensure that he's not "running" into the canter (which would equal you bouncing.) He'll be able to drive in with his hind-end, and "jump" into it, if that makes sense. Another thing that might help is trying your transition out of a volte (10 meter circle.) I would try a big posting trot on the 20 meter circle to get your horse really marching forward (not running though) and then doing a volte in the sitting trot (make sure you don't lose the energy or tip forward) and out of the volte ask for the canter. That has helped me enormously in getting nicer transitions out of my mare, who has a tendency to run herself, which ends up with me bouncing all over the place.

Honestly, it will just take time-lots of time and patience-and it will happen. With practice you will learn to feel your horses rhythm and stay connected with your seat. I hope this helped some...I've had to work on my canter transitions alot lately myself if you can't my instructor has us learning our walk-canter canter-walks...oi vay
existentialpony likes this.
    10-07-2013, 01:02 AM
Oops sorry I forgot to respond to the main part of your question...its been a long day over here As to what you're doing my guess would be by lightening your seat you are tipping forward, which is going to encourage your horse to get heavy on his forehand/ throw him out of balance. This would make the transition a little awkward, and it wouldn't feel too smooth to you. Maybe try to relax your legs to make sure you aren't gripping in, sit deep, relaxed (but not leaning too far back) and remember that his canter should come from a proper aid, like your leg being slightly behind the girth, and there should be energy behind it. Its a balance between staying relaxed, but still maintaining tone so that everything doesnt fall apart. I hope this made sense...I could use some caffeine right about now...
    10-07-2013, 06:14 PM
Green Broke
We too struggle with the trot to canter transitions. So we've been dedicating half of each lesson to just that. Here is what has helped us:

Making sure that he's fully connected through half-halts (if he's distracted and I give the aid for canter depart he just starts to trot faster, if I keep pushing for the canter depart, he will pin his ears and buck). We practice both directions equally even though right lead canter is harder for him, we celebrate small victories and we always end on a good note.

Hope this helps.
    10-07-2013, 06:16 PM
Thanks for the advice! It really helps. I think that I am over-thinking the transition and paying more attention to myself than I am to him.

We will give the half-halts and especially the voltes a shot! Also, Alpine, thank you for the reminder that "deep" does not mean heavy... and that I can drive without digging my seatbones into him. That clicked for me!
    10-08-2013, 07:58 PM
Re: the voltes... we worked all of our trot-canter transitions out of voltes yesterday and THANK GOODNESS what a difference! Thank you for that piece of advice! I have to work hard to keep him properly bent on the circle/stop him from squiggling (ha) while keeping him forward and when we finally get ready for the depart he is so attentive and ready I can just lightly sit, cue, and go!
    10-08-2013, 09:59 PM
Originally Posted by existentialpony    
Re: the voltes... we worked all of our trot-canter transitions out of voltes yesterday and THANK GOODNESS what a difference! Thank you for that piece of advice! I have to work hard to keep him properly bent on the circle/stop him from squiggling (ha) while keeping him forward and when we finally get ready for the depart he is so attentive and ready I can just lightly sit, cue, and go!
Yay, that's awesome!!! Good for you guys, and I am glad I could help
    10-09-2013, 10:22 AM
Green Broke
I will have to give this volte thing a try too.

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