Title 4This is our fourth and final week of Focus On Transitions. I hope you've been able to try some of the exercises in your daily riding, and have found them to be useful in helping to improve your horse's transitions as well as overall gaits and way of going. I'm in the process of putting together a much more complete course package for those who wanted more. Go to my Practice Sessions page for more details.

If you missed the first three exercises, click on the appropriate link below. Although the exercises have been progressively difficult, you can always mix them up and use them repeatedly over the course of several weeks. It never hurts to go back to the more simple exercises on a day that you might want to keep things easy, or skip one and go to the more challenging exercise. It all depends on you and your horse's needs.

I'd also love to hear your feedback - which ones you tried, how things went, what did they do for you and your horse. Just email me at fwdnrnd@gmail.com

Focus On Transitions - Week One

HL Five Years
HL Bundle
HL Goal Setting
HL Book 3
HL Book 2
HL Book 1

Focus On Transitions - Week Two

Focus On Transitions - Week Three

I've saved the most interesting exercise for the last one! Enjoy!


This week, we're going to progress into more changes - including changes of bend as well as gaits. We have embedded circles at different gaits, which will require your horse to step deeper under the body and bend more than in previous exercises. We continue with straight line transitions and non-progressive as well as progressive transitions.

You can simplify the exercise by keeping to one gait for both circles. You can make the exercise more difficult by cantering the 10-metre circle and trotting the 20-metre circle.


  • Accurate 20-metre circle which transitions to a 10-metre circle
  • Straight and balanced canter-walk and walk-canter transitions
  • Effective use of corners at trot
  • Adequate bend for 20-metre vs. 10-metre circles
  • Trot to halt transition on a straight line


See the previous articles for the walk-canter and canter-walk, as well as the walk-trot and trot-walk transitions.

Trot-Halt Transition

This is a non-progressive, downward transition that requires more energy and response from the horse than you might think.

1. Trot

As this is the last "movement" of the exercise, you come to the halt from the 20-metre trot circle. Make sure you have a strong, round trot as you come out of the circle. If your horse has a tendency to slow down on a circle, you might need to energize him from the hind end before heading onto the straight line. If your horse tends to rush, use a half-halt or two to help him balance more to the hind end before the straight line.

2. Straight Line

You come out of a mild 20-metre bend to the rail. Be sure to keep your horse's shoulders from "leaking to the outside" and pointing to the rail. Keep the horse straight on the straight line. Half-halt through the last two or three strides in preparation for the halt.

3. Halt

Stop with your seat. Keep your legs on the horse's side, but not active. Keep contact with the reins, but avoid pulling back. Try to get the halt more from your seat than your hands. Ideally, your horse should stop straight (not leaning to one side) and square (front legs parallel and hind legs parallel).


Transition Exercise #4. © Horse Listening, 2015

Start at Walk before C, on the left rein.

Transition to canter at C, left lead. 20-metre canter circle.

Transition to trot at C. 10-metre trot circle.

Make sure you increase your horse's bend for this circle. He might want to slow down a bit - you can accept that if you feel that the initial trot was too fast, but make sure you keep his energy up and the stride length long.

Continue at trot through the corner.

Walk at S.

Walk the sharp left turn at E, straight over X, and walk the sharp right turn at B.

Canter transition at P.

20-metre canter circle, right lead, starting at A.

10-metre trot circle at A.

Come out of the trot circle and halt before the corner.

You can walk out of the exercise and start the whole thing over again by walking across the diagonal (maybe in a nice stretchy walk?) and starting again before C. Or you can continue straight along the rail, and start at C going in the opposite direction. Your walk lines will be on the opposite sides of the rails.

Using embedded circles like this helps both you and your horse develop a really good sense of the bend and engagement it takes to transition between small and large circles. Add the gait transitions, and it's not as easy as it looks!

Let me know how you do. You can post in the comments below, or email me directly.

Happy Riding!

Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!

Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions. 

This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.

Click here to read more and to join one of the most complete programs on the Internet!

Disclaimer: Use this as a guideline but you might need your instructor to respond to your individual needs. By using information on this site, you agree and understand that you are fully responsible for your progress, results and safety. We offer no representations, warranties or guarantees verbally or in writing regarding your improvement or your horse’s response or results of any kind. Always use the information on this site with a view toward safety for both you and your horse. Use your common sense when around horses.

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

Horse Listening - The Book

Read more relevant articles here:

What Is A Neck Bend? And What To Do About It: The neck bend looks exactly as it sounds. The rider goes to bend the horse, and instead of achieving a tail-to-head arc through the body, only the neck juts to the inside.

Bend: How To Drift Out On Purpose: There is a time that it is perfectly fine, or almost advisable, for you to allow the horse to drift to the outside.

How To "Fill Up" Your Outside Rein For A True Neck Rein: We often rely so much on our inside reins that we tend to forget the purpose and use of the outside rein.

Why A Halt Is Not A Vacation - In Horse Riding: Essentially, most of us turn off when we stop riding. The seat goes soft, the legs come off the horse, and we drop the reins. It’s not surprising then that the horse reflects our inactivity.

How To Halt Without Pulling On The Reins: We all dream of finding the halt that looks like we are in complete harmony with our horse.