Transitions – in riding and in life

Transitions. A change of pace. A change of place. A link.

Successful transitions are prompt, yet smooth – a balance of courage and patience.
 It occurred to me how the ingredients for credit-earning transitions I share with the riders I coach, could be applied to our inevitable life transitions, too.  More on that later…

Riding transitions come in several forms:

  • Transitions between gaits. Trot to canter. Canter to halt. Halt to walk. The unique “beat of the feet” changes from one gait to another.
  • Transitions within a gait. The drumbeat of the gait remains the same, but the stride lengthens or shortens. Practicing these develops longitudinal suppleness – your horse becomes supple, like an elastic band.
  • Transitions between states. Shoulder in to renvers (haunches out).  Side-pass  over a trail obstacle to a turn on the haunches. A change of shape or bend.

Cautions for top transitions:  

  1. No flee.Tension prompts a horse to rush out the “front door” into the next gait or beyond your desired pace.  In horse training, we want to avoid any fear. As prey animals, horses do not learn or perform well in flight response.
  2. No brace.  No resistance to your aids –leaning on your hands, or sticking on your leg aids.
  3. No extra link. The  beat of the feet changes from one gait to another, without including a different gait in between.  For example, a walk to canter transition shouldn’t slip in trot steps. Downward transitions from canter to trot shouldn’t slip out the back door into a few steps of walk. Breaking gait is costly in the show ring.  For example, those accidental walk- instead-of-trot steps would earn a 3 point penalty in equitation and horsemanship classes, a 1 point penalty in the trail class and a low movement score in your dressage test.
  4. Nothing abrupt.  Aim for a precise yet smooth  shift between gaits . A moment of straight between distinct changes of bend.    Nerves can make a rider overreact, surprising a horse. The key is in the timing and intensity or your aids; to deliver just the appropriate amount of pressure to motivate your horse to make a change – no more and no less. 

In life, transitions are inevitable aren’t they? Wisdom is gleaned by handling life’s shifts and  “suddenly-moments” well – and not so well.  Transitions to marriage or singleness, parenthood or losing a parent.  A diagnosis. A pandemic. A new town, new job, new normal.

Perhaps the same cautions above might apply to life transitions. No rush. No brace.

We’ve all rushed into the next opportunity or confrontation with someone, and regretted it.  
Other times we get stuck – paralyzed to make a choice or a change.

When to move, when to wait – a mix of courage and patience and experience are, no doubt, ingredients transition wisely in riding and life.

 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.For every purpose there is a right time and procedure…” from Ecclesiastes, the Bible.