Tempo and transitions: 3 tips for more collection

If you want to work towards collection, changes of tempo and transitions are very useful exercises. But… only if you perform them well.

Only then your horse gets better from it and will place more weight on the hindquarter.

But when do you perform a ‘transition’ or a ‘change of tempo’ well?

Before you’re going to ride a transition or change of tempo with the goal to collect your horse, it’s important to have the three basic conditions in order first.

With this, we mean that your horse is relaxed, has a forward drive, and experiences the contact with the hand as pleasant. That’s your base and that is what you want to accomplish every day in your training.

If you don’t have this accomplished, the transitions and changes of tempo won’t improve the balance of your horse.

Don’t think too lightly about The Basic Principles. According to Rien van der Schaft 99% of the riders don’t have this accomplished in the way it should be. Check this again every training.

How do you know if you’ve got the basic principles established?

Maybe you find it difficult to verify whether you have your basics enough in order. That is very understandable, but luckily Rien has a very efficient way to check this.

If your basic principles are in order, your horse will always have the tendency to follow your hand forward-downward. You can say that the position has a forward-downward direction.

By opening your hand, you can check whether your horse’s position truly has a forward-downward direction.

Does your horse come up with his head?

Then you didn’t have the basic principles accomplished in that moment.

But hey, don’t be ashamed of this! It happens a lot… and only if you are aware of it you can do something about it.

Once you’ve got the basic principles accomplished, it’s important to keep paying attention during the changes of tempo and transitions. Do the basic principles stay in order?

How do you know if your basic principles are okay during a transition or change of tempo?

In fact, you can check this in the exact same way. Also during a transition or change of tempo, you can open your hand to check if your basics are still in place.

Do you notice your horse pressuring himself? And is there no forward-downward direction of the position of the horse?

Then you crossed the line a little bit… You lost the positive topline and good position. And that is not strange at all. It happens even to the best riders.

But of course, you like to avoid a situation like that. But how do you do that?

A good rider tries to interfere on time when he feels the horse is losing the basic principles. So you stop riding that transition or change of tempo to first gain that positive feeling again.

When you feel your horse stiffening or losing impulsion, then it’s important to fix this by going forward again. By going forward, your horse can find his relaxation and looseness back.

And sometimes that doesn’t take long, it can be fixed with only 5 strides.

Finally, 3 tips for you to improve the changes of tempo and transitions.

Tip #1 Ride a little bit shoulder-fore

In our online training, Rien advises riders to ride transitions and tempo changes in a light shoulder-fore.

This invites the hind leg to step better underneath the body of the horse than when you would ride on two tracks.

Tip #2 Ride transitions and changes of tempo on a circle

Besides riding shoulder-fore, you can also ride transitions on a circle.

By the bending of the body, you’ll also get the effect of the hind legs stepping better under the center of the horse.

Tip #3 Ride half-turns around the forehand as preparation

For example, you want to make a walk-trot or walk-canter transition. A common mistake is that your horse throws himself forward. Then you get a driving hindleg instead of a carrying hindleg.

What can help in this situation is to ride a half-turn around the forehand with maybe a few steps of rein back. If you make your transition after this you’ll notice that your horse will keep his balance much better.

Are you also riding changes of tempo and transitions for more collection? Hopefully, you got some inspiration out of the tips.

Good luck!

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