The canter to trot transition is the one transition that so many riders don’t ever think about until they are in the midst of it. So much focus and attention are put into getting into the canter, and yet the ‘getting out of the canter’ is just left to chance.
Today I want to give you a few ideas to work on, in the saddle, before you get into the canter that will help you begin riding a smoother and more ‘put together’ canter to trot transition.
The Bouncy Transition
For so many riders, the canter to trot transition is filled with bounce and general bumpiness. And usually in a way that is not benefiting the rider or the horse. I personally think that this is often due to the fact that the canter can and will improve the trot.
Meaning that when the trot is flat and not all that great, the rider is okay. However as soon as there is ‘more’ happening in the trot; well it’s not all smooth sailing or riding.
So if you find yourself being able to manage quite nicely when in trot ‘before the canter’, but struggling little with the same trot after a canter, you are in need of suppleness. Because this is a rider issue. It is your inability to ride the transition that is the issue where.
Working on Your Responsiveness
If you are experiencing challenges with your canter to trot transition, I am going to suggest starting with responsiveness. And not when cantering! Before you begin riding the canter, work on improving your responsiveness as a rider. I firmly believe that almost always, a lack of responsiveness comes from the rider.
How consistent are you being with your aids and your riding in general? Your horse will ‘mirror’ or ‘reflect’ your approach to responsiveness. Meaning the ball is firmly in your court when it comes to improving it.
Responsiveness is important for al transitions. where a lack of responsiveness affects the downward canter to trot transition is that when it is lacking, a certain amount of ‘hauling’ happens! Rather than the aids communicating the intention for a smooth transition to the horse, the rider has to pull and tug the horse into the trot.
My advice is to work on your responsiveness in halt, walk and trot before you pick up the canter. Pay particular attention to your timing, your half-halt, and how you are ‘releasing’ when your horse responds.
Maintaining the Contact
The canter to trot transition can be confusing when it comes to contact for many riders. There is a tendency to throw the contact at the horse. I often think that this is in a slightly misguided attempt to prevent catching the horse in the mouth. And while you definitely don’t want to catch or jab your horse in the mouth; you also don’t want to drop him where contact is concerned.
Contact is like a mutual agreement between horse and rider. Maintaining a positive and ‘working’ contact through the transition is essential if you are both to build trust and confidence.
The other side of contact is when the rider holds on too tight. This is usually due to either a need to balance on the reins – which NEVER works! Or a deep desire to control EVERYTHING! Again, contact is a mutual agreement. It cannot be this when you are using it to further your own agenda 😉
Here, I advise you to begin establishing a truly independent seat. Correct your base of support and begin relying on yourself to maintain balance throughout the transition. It will go a lot further to riding a good canter to trot transition.
Incorrect use of the contact through the transition often causes the horse to hollow. This results in that horrible bounce riders experience as the horse moves into the trot. The irony, of course, is that this same bounce causes many riders to hold on even tighter! Learn to follow your horse, seat, and hand, through the transition.
Asking for Straightness
If you ride a canter for any length of time, without being mindful of what is happening, your horse might begin to ‘curl’. Usually, it is around your inside leg. But sometimes the hindquarters ‘curl’ to the outside. Either way, all thoughts of straightness fly out of the arena and this has a real negative impact on the canter to trot transition.
In order to really maintain the energy flow, so, therefore, establishing a good quality trot from the get-go, attention to straightness is necessary.
My advice is to begin working on this in other transitions. Allow it to become a habit for you and your horse in all transitions.
Will it be perfect from the beginning? No! In fact, it probably won’t be anywhere near perfect for quite some time. However, by training yourself to look for this, from day 1 (today) you will be more inclined to encourage it through the canter to trot transition.
Your Position Through the Transition
There is a tendency for riders to either lean back or collapse forward when riding the canter to trot transition. Either of these things is going to make for an uncomfortable entry to the trot. If riders lean back, it encourages the horse to become hollow. Simply put, the energy no longer flows from the back end to the front end. Hollowness also causes a really uncomfortable ‘bumpiness’ to happen!
Keep in mind that there is also a tendency for many horses to become heavy in front when they get back into the trot from the canter. The rider sitting perched on the withers will only amplify this!
Your focus should be on maintaining your alignment, before during and after the transition. This will put you in the best position to communicate with your horse. And also, to allow your horse to actually do what you have asked him to do.
Again, practice this as you work between halt, walk, and trot. Use the slower gaits to really begin training your body to remain aligned, so that when you do ask for the canter to trot transition, your body will be more inclined to remain in alignment.
The Canter to Trot Transition
Simple things practiced correctly before you ever get into canter can really help you to improve this transition. Finally, I am also going to suggest getting back into a rising trot, posting to the trot, as soon as possible after the transition. This will allow you to establish your balance more quickly.
And, the rising trot will encourage a more rhythmic trot from the first step as well.
The Original Returning to Riding Program
Are you looking for a way to get back into confident regular riding again? If so, I have a step-by-step, day-by-day plan to help you make this a reality that works with your existing lifestyle.
The Original Returning to Riding Program is an audio program, that plays from a podcast that you subscribe to on your phone. Each day, new training or lesson is available for you to use as you make the transition from ‘grounded’ to regular riding again. You can find out more about it HERE