Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Hypothetical Answer

The overwhelming majority seems to be in favor of fixing the canter, then re-doing the transition. I can't believe no one picked up on the most obvious answer: Don't make a bad transition! ;)

Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. In a perfect world, you would think, "Oh, the horse has lost impulsion, or contact, or both and won't be able to make this transition.... Abort!" But, that takes a lot of precision, quickness and "feel" and doesn't always happen. I have heard good arguments for both of the hypothetical scenarios I put forth. I think it depends on where you and the horse are in your training.

If you are on a young or naive horse, I think it is correct to keep the canter, fix it if you can, then transition downward and re-do. The young horse is still learning the aids, he may not understand if you correct him when he did what you asked to the best of his ability.

On a more experienced horse who knows the aids, it becomes a really grey area in my opinion. On one hand, the horse complied with my request, he cantered. On the other hand, I'm not just asking for canter anymore. I'm asking for a quiet, collected transition and a good canter. So, if the horse doesn't comply, I should probably immediately transition back down and re-do. But, if I'm in a bad, unbalanced canter, my downward transition will be bad, and I will get a bad trot that I have to fix. And then I will have made two bad transitions when what I was trying to do is make one good one.

Generally, I like to fix the canter, then transition downward and re-do. I don't like to make a ton of bad transitions. But, I can see where that logic may eventually fail me. In operant conditioning theory (the theory we use to train animals) the "aids" fit into negative reinforcement. You apply the aid until the horse complies. The aid is uncomfortable, the reward for the horse is the release of the aid. The immediate correction, which involves a bad downward transition and then an immediate request for the upward transition, is also uncomfortable for the horse. The horse learns that if he does the transition correctly, the way you wanted it, the aids will be released.

A bad transition happens when the horse comes off the aids. Now, why did the horse come off the aids? Is it because you allowed him to? That goes back to not making a bad transition. Don't allow bad transitions, then you won't need to worry about fixing them. Ha!

In conclusion, I think I will be doing my best to not make bad transitions. I will prepare, prepare, prepare and if I feel that my transition might be bad, I will abort, re-collect and then try again.

In the event of a bad transition (which is probable) I'll just wing it. *L*


  1. Thanks very much for answering my question. Intuitively I have started the trotting work. In fact no canter for us today. I am glad you confirmed it. Thank for adding the piece of the puzzle to keep her "round".

    I really enjoyed your post, you put lots of thought in it ^-^

    I was told to ask for the up transition when the horse is "soft", I guess in dressage it means, round and with a good contact. If Ilost the feel I shoudl not ask. As you said, avoid making bad transition ;-P

  2. I'm appreciating this topic. My horse was transitioning up quite well as he learned to canter, but he wouldn't hold the canter. Now he'll hold it once he gets it, but doesn't transition up as well (rushes a bit in the trot before cantering). I think I need to go back in my riding training and do a better job with keeping engagement, so the transition is quiet and more immediately responsive.

  3. Sounds to me like the canter that needs fixing is Spider's way of negatively reinforcing your bad transition lol :)

    Great post!

  4. My newest post addresses the basics of transitions on a still learning horse--Chance. What you will note, is that I needed to analyze what was causing the transition problem--where the horse was placing his body and me--before I could fix the basic problem.

    While it is more refined with a trained horse, you still need to figure out what went wrong to make the transition bad in the first place.


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