Perfecting your prelim 17A: riding beautiful transitions

This article originally formed week seven of Horse & Hound’s e-Training series with Keith Robertson.

This week Keith explains how to ride beautiful transitions with the view to improving your prelim test riding. This week we focus on prelim 17A.

Session 1: canter to trot transitions across the diagonal

In prelim 17A you’re required to change the rein in canter, coming back to trot as you approach the track. 

It’s important to set yourself up well for changing the rein, ensuring that your horse is attentive and listening to your aids.

Remember, the judge wants to see how straight you can perform the transition. It’s common to break into trot early at this level, so introduce variety at home.

To try at home…

Try using your voice initially when practising your transitions, so that you’re not interfering with the balance of the canter, and then slowly fade it out. This will mean that your horse will become used to little rein aid and therefore won’t expect you to carry him. 

It’s important you get to know what to expect from your horse while you’re at home. If your horse is likely to drop the canter, leave the transition as late as possible. Conversely, if he is very bold, adjust yourself before the marker. 

Work on steadying your canter while keeping your leg on, so your horse doesn’t break before trot. The tiniest amount of inside flexion will help you find your balance and maintain roundness before the transition to trot.

When returning to the track, make it clear to the horse that you’re now remaining in trot. It’s advisable to resume rising trot so he doesn’t think he’s repeating the process. Keep him straight, don’t use too much outside leg and push him into an even contact.

You must also work on sustaining canter for longer periods of time, so the horse doesn’t learn to make a transition every time he gets to a certain point. 

Keep practising your transition-riding at home to help build confidence. Your horse should be ready for a transition at any time, and not be surprised.

Let others know if you found this effective.

Session 2: improving your horse’s self-carriage

Transitions are also a great way to improve your horse’s self-carriage — and good self-carriage is a must for pushing up the percentages.

To try at home…

You should not use your hands to create an outline, but ride the horse forward into a light contact, encouraging self-carriage.

Repeat lots of trot-to-canter and canter-to-trot transitions at home. Make sure you have the horse forward in the trot before you make the next transition and that he’s on the bit and that you’re riding him from “back to front”. Think of keeping his forehand to the inside a little bit to keep him straight — only the forehand though, don’t bend the neck as much.

Session 3: practise the whole test

It’s now time to practise riding the test as a whole, but first watch this week’s test riding video with Isobel Wessels:

Although we will focus on other movements throughout the series, ensure that you’re comfortable with the following:

  • Transitions across the diagonal
  • Half circles returning to the track
  • Transitions to medium walk
  • Halting from trot

Join us at the H&H Festival of Dressage

The Horse & Hound Festival of Dressage is being held at Sheepgate Equestrian, Lincs on 20-22 July. Each rider will compete in a long arena class on Saturday, followed by a second long arena class on Sunday. For prelim riders, the tests are Prelim 17A and Prelim 19. Warm-up classes and music classes are also available. Entries close on Friday 13 July so if you want to join us, ENTER NOW >>

H&H reporters will be on site throughout the show, with reports being published online throughout the competition and in a future issues of the magazine. There are also fabulous prize money and prizes up for grabs.