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Walk-Trot Transitions Tutorial With Sarah Williams

This is a very quick tutorial on the walk, improving the quality of the walk, the walk to trot transition, and a couple of tips on how to develop responsiveness.
 
So this is Reggie, a show jumper I have re-trained. He belongs to one of my owners. He's not your conventional dressage horse; quite short and round, not built particularly uphill. I liken his shape to one of those balance gym balls that you work on to develop your core strength; they make it very difficult to find the centre of balance. This is the same with the horse sometimes, if there is a little bit more length in their back it is easier to actually find the centre of balance on the horizontal frame, and then start to develop a more uphill frame and way of going.
 
So basically, with the walk-trot transition and then back down to trot-walk, you need to develop the feeling of the walk through your hips into your hands, as I have described in my other tutorials. All my tutorials link, working upwards and forwards through the levels.
 
So as you can see, I have raised my hands a little again, so you can see what my arms are doing; moving forward and back with the contact. In the walk, I very gently press with my calves - almost like squeezing water out of a sponge - to ask for the trot. As soon as the horse trots I immediately go into swinging my hips forward and down, and my elbows bend and straighten like a small press up. This enables me to flow with the horse.
 
Then, when I want to walk, in this very basic transition I relax my legs, drop my heels down, and slow and lower my rise so that my body becomes stiller but not blocked. At the same time - with my hands in the contact - I start to very gently reduce the bending and straightening of my elbows, letting the movement get smaller and smaller with my rise, so that my hands are almost still once I'm back in a sitting position. Then, once in walk again, I immediately resume pushing my hands forwards and backwards to accommodate the movement of the walk. As I've said before, the contact should be like Chihuahuas or small Jack Russells on a lead going for a walk. I would only start to use sitting trot further into the training session as the horse warms up through the back and the muscles.
 
I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to ask me any questions. You can message me on Facebook or Instagram @sarahwilliamsdressage.
 
 
Video Transcript;

"Hello everyone.

"I hope you've been enjoying my tutorials and they've been helpful, on my Yonder Farm And Connect Equestrian Q&A And Tutorials. If you haven't joined the group and you'd like to, just send me a request and I will add you.

"So today I'm going to talk about the walk-trot transition. So that will have all included everything we've done on previous tutorials. So the forward and back, forward and back, swinging the hips, bending the elbows in the rising trot and like the rowing in the cancer.

"This is Reggie. You guys have asked me to show you some of the less experienced horses, so he is a show jumper that I've retrained. He's probably working at elementary / medium at home. He's got a change, got a flying change now, but because he show jumps, it's very excitable and not as easy as I would like, so I've had to do a lot of repair work there. And he's got a really good piaffe. So he's a bit... got some big gaps. He's not conventional; you can see he's very short, very round, so it's harder to find the horizontal balance... but we'll talk about that in another tutorial. But he's just a nice little type – he’s nothing spesh - but you'll see when he trots he's got a very nice feel to his trot.

"Obviously I've been walking for a bit because I've been talking to you, so I'm getting the forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, forward back. I've got my Chihuahuas, so I can feel the contact mainly in the snaffle rein as he’s in the double today. So I'm going to want to trot. So my hips are moving, I'm going to squeeze, just squeeze with my leg, wait for the reaction, go rising straight away; bend and straighten my elbows. He's still very much in the warm up phase of his session today; I've literally only just got on him. So, I've got his neck a little bit low. So bend, straight, bend, straight, elbows, bend, straight. So I'd like to walk now, so I'm just going to relax, lower the rise, and walk. Nothing changes; you just slow your body down, lower the rise, and walk.

"... because  I want more response, so rather than sort of tap and kick and fiddle and move around, I'm just going to repeat them, I’m just going to do more. So forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, squeeze with my legs, go rising straightaway. I don't go sitting trot to come back, not at this stage because I'm still warming his back up. So, I’m just going to get the trot going a little bit more... So, elbows; bend, straight, bend, straight, bend, straight, bend, straight. So I’m lowering my rise, relaxing, stay rising, back stays soft – and he just walks. So repeat... so see the reaction there was lovely, I can ride him on the snaffle rein really nicely, he knew exactly what I wanted; he just trotted. So really it’s just repeat, rather than get stronger. So lower the rise and he walks.

"The other thing you mustn’t do, if you feel like the horse is not going to go off the leg, you mustn’t start doing this; chasing. See what's happened, yeah? Lost fluency. You've got to relax - try and relax with the leg off - move with the horse’s body, keep repeating what you want the horse to do; praise it and it will cotton on. They’re sensitive enough to do that.

"If I feel the horse is not listening to me in the walk, rather than chase the walk, I do little turns like that. Literally just like a little sort of third of a turn - with the next straight - third of a turn. And then I say “go”. So it's just a little reminder that you want them to do something and it makes you feel like you know whether you've got the horse in the rein and ready to go, rather than kicking and pushing and fiddling more. I'm just going to lower the rise; contact doesn't change... walk.  To develop more collection, you'd increase those, obviously. We’ll talk about collection in another blog.

"I think the mistake people make in the walk is they go too fast. Because it hasn't got natural momentum - like the rolling ball effect down the hill - like the canter and the trot has. It's got no momentum; we tend to want to chase it. And then if you chase it, it's like somebody constantly pushing you from behind. What would you do? You'd stumble forward. And the horse compensates for us doing that by, basically, dropping its sling, raising its head, lowering its back and shuffling on the forehand. And then we think that we've got a better trot; in that respect we haven't.

"In the walk, if you're not sure your horse is going to go off your leg, don't kick it faster because it will just stumble forward and it will compensate for your bad riding and put up with it, and you’ll wonder why the walk is short and losing its fluency. Don't do that. Do those little quarter turns, right? Squares and diamonds. Change the rein, then trot. But another caution with the walk, don't walk for too long on the contact, because, obviously, you can lose the fluency; it’s a pace that’s difficult to work on. The walk pace improves as every other pace improves; your trot and your canter.

"Remember, just slow your body down, lower your rise, keep your hands soft. So your hands would go forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, forward, back. When you want to walk, then we just softly stay still, and your body would stay still and lower, and the horse would walk.

"Thank you very much. See you soon!"

 

Find out more about Sarah Williams and check out the rest of her helpful video tutorials, covering a range movements and transitions > View Sarah's profile here.

Sarah Williams
Horsemart Brand Ambassador
Published on 2020-06-22