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Downward Transitions Part 1

Do you dream that you could come from a full gallop to a walk by only using your seat? It is all very possible by practicing subtle cues in your training sessions. Here we will start from a walk and build up to stopping the horse from your seat at faster gaits.

Secure Your Seat

The place where most riders get stuck is that they rely too much on their reins. Having a strong position in the saddle is key to perfect communication with your horse. If you are bouncing around on his back your horse can’t tell the difference between the bouncing and a cue from your seat. Practice riding on a lunge line, in a round pen or an enclosed area without your reins, working only on your position. Also, riding without stirrups will greatly help your position.

Listening to Your Seat

Once your position is secure, get your horse listening to your seat. Start walking on a loose rein. When he starts walking forward you want to follow the motion of his walk with your body. When I say follow the motion of his walk, I mean gently move your hips side to side with the swinging of his walk. This is close to the same motion that your body makes when you are actually walking. Make sure that you are loose and relaxed in your body. Once he has walked a few strides, ask him to stop by first thinking about stopping, quit following his walking motion, tighten your core, then sit down and back in your saddle, pushing your weight into your heels. If he ignores your aids, reach about a third of the way down one rein and hold it out to the side until he bends his neck. When he does, bring the rein toward the pommel of your saddle and wait for him to bend his body and cross his hind legs to disengage. When he stands still and gives to the rein pressure release the rein. Be sure to change the direction each time you bend him. By bending the horse to a stop you are teaching him to listen to your pre cues (which are the cues from your seat, you can also add a voice cue) before you help him stop by taking away his engine (hind legs) and creating relaxation in the stop through the bend (v.s. pulling on two reins).


The aids to stop and slow down:

  1. Focus.
  2. Think “stop”.
  3. Sit down in your saddle/ stop following his motion.
  4. Sink you weight into your heels/ tighten your core muscles/ take your legs off of his sides slightly.
  5. Slide your hand about one third of the way down the rein and bring it out to the side until the horse bends his neck.
  6. Bring the rein toward the withers and wait for him to bend his body and cross his hind legs.
  7. Once he disengages his hindquarters, hold the rein until he flexes, then release and let him stand for a minute.

At first the horse probably won’t listen to your seat aids alone and that’s fine because it’s completely new to him. Keep practicing and your horse will soon stop with a cue from your seat.