top of page

Musings on Transitions

When I show up for a lesson, I always ask the client what they are feeling good about and what they are struggling with.

The top response in these categories that I find are -

“I’m feeling good about our connection, but I’m struggling with our transitions.”

Translation –

I’m feeling good about our connection, but my horse is not.

(These are some of my favorite lessons).

Transitions, are the gateway into the soul of your training.

They are the shining mirrors, reflecting back every tiny “chink in your armor.”

A clean upward transition, requires -

A horse who has a healthy relationship to connection with their rider, balanced self-carriage and steadfast in their emotional regulation.

A clean downward transition, requires -

A horse who has a healthy relationship to connection with their rider, balanced self-carriage and steadfast in their emotional regulation.

A healthy relationship to connection, means that the horse believes that when they soften to your hand, you will also soften back.

This is nonnegotiable to achieve a horse who is not carrying tension.

A balanced self-carriage, means that the horse has had enough practice with the above step, that it has developed enough strength to correctly trust it’s body’s ability to balance, instead of relying on the brace of the neck due to the hand.

A horse that is at ease and fully comfortable with changing states of being is a horse that has been walked through the process of bringing that open, relaxed, self-carriage state into a higher energy and then back down while holding space for their emotions.

The secret to this, is asking for more energy on the RELEASE of tension instead of asking for energy while you try to MANGE their tension.

A simple but not so easy exercise for mastering your walk-trot transition.

#1. Repeat the following out loud for as many times necessary until you believe this in your bones.

“I do not give a damn, if we trot.”

This is imperative because if you CARE, then you drop into a predatory energy that will not allow the horse to learn the proper ease in their emotional regulation with an upwards transition.

#2. At the walk, ask your horse to soften to your hand.

The MOMENT you feel them soften, drop the reins to the buckle.

Repeat this step a few times to gain trust in your horse that you are going to honor the contract of “They soften, you soften.”

(It’s okay if they drop down on their forehand for a few steps. It will not kill them and step #3 will address it once you’ve earned their trust).

This is imperative to ensure removal of tension in the horses body as it will teach them to release their ventral neck, allowing for ease of swallow and breath.

#3. After a few of those both directions, start asking for more energy with your seat and leg just as you would ask for the trot, AT THE SAME TIME that you drop your reins after the soften.

The intention here is to simply begin to show them that they can bring their energy up while simultaneously releasing their tension.

This is the key to healthy emotional regulation and practicing your upward transition.

The MOMENT they begin to lift their head and brace in that energy, you have arrived to the place that they either -

A.) Not strong enough to hold.


B.) Do not yet have the emotional capacity to hold.

This is a full stop moment.

Do not push through.

Do not Pass go.

Do not collect $200.

Remember, you don’t give a damn if they trot.

Simply lead by example by allowing yourself a long exhale, soften your low back and gently invite them back to step #2 until they feel relaxed and safe again.

This is practicing a downward transition and again building trust that you are going to not allow them to continue forward out of tension.

You are choosing to protect their well being.

Rinse, repeat as many times necessary.

Eventually, they will be strong enough both in their body and in their emotional health to offer you a trot transition full of life, balance and ease.

Two things to note here -

I personally will not teach this exercise until the horse has a developed enough thoracic sling that their spine is neutral instead of downhill.

If the horse does not have this, they will not be physically capable of giving this to you and you have set both of you up for a sad failure which isn’t fun for either of you.

Take the time in-hand to develop them first.

Your horse will thank you.

Before and after of the developmental work of BTMM Trainer Stacia Strong

(She is available for distance session and clinics)


bottom of page