Transitions are something every horse/rider combination have to practice. A small step that connects so many parts. The power of transitions is greatly underestimated. Many riders focus only on gait and miss the nuance of a transition. As I have grown as a rider, I have learned how a transition can help a horse balance and connect the rear to the front. Correct transitions improve the quality of the gaits. There is a reason why in dressage there is a score for the transition alone.
Yesterday I worked three horses of varying levels and all of them benefited from simple transitions. I started with DaVinci. Nearly four months ago, DaVinci suffered an injury that caused an infection in his knee joint. He was put on stall rest for two months and then had to take two more weeks before beginning to work. Since he is 23 yrs young, the time off caused some muscle loss along his top line. I did not plan on anything beyond a stroll around the property, but he wanted to work. So we did walk trot transitions while working long and low. For DaVinci the transitions gently exercised and softened his back muscles allowing him to round nicely beneath me. He was even able to maintain the softness during the transitions. In his case the transitions are more theraputic and will aid in regaining his fitness.
Next I worked the greenie, Rosemary. We joke that Rosemary could not walk a straight line if she wanted. Her education was delayed due to pregancy and nursing. Transitions help Rosemary figure out that she has a front end and a back end and that they are connected. This ride we did transitions on a slight hill on a loose rein. Rosemary had to learn to use her hind end effectively without me holding he head. Since driving is in her future this is an important lesson. She still needs some work trotting down hill, but the transitions helped package her and balance her on the flat.
Finally, I worked Comrade. His owner has cleared some nice trails on her property and using the trees cut down has made some jumps. Comrade enjoys jumping but he tends to be a little lazy over the fences and will get on his forehand. So he got to do a combination of walk, trot, halt transitions on the trail around the jumps. Also I included transitions following lateral movements such turn on the haunches or shoulder ins. His responses were quick and correct connecting the back to the front. Following some trot transitions on a hill, I aimed him at two jumps on the same hill. Proof that he was working well, a really good couple of jumps. No laziness. His canter work was much better because he was using his hind end. Another aspect is that transitions keep a horses attention on you. It is hard for Comrade to spook when he is waiting for me to tell him what to do.
So in the end I had three great rides with the help of transitions. The devil is in the details and transitions are details that should not be overlooked.