Keeping your horse in front of the Leg

Is your horse in front of your leg?

There are so many exercises that are helpful to the horse becoming more reactive and one of the most effective is to execute good, well ridden transitions. This month we are going to look a little deeper into what makes a good transition and how it helps to develop your horses training.

Every time you ride your horse, one thing is for certain; you will be riding some transitions. Every ridden transition can be used to improve your horses way of going and reactions so if you can give yourself one rule in schooling let it be ‘never ride a bad transition’.

So what is a transition?

There are different types of transition. They can be progressive, they can be direct or they can be within a gait.

A progressive transition is changing gait to the next gait up or down; for example going from walk to trot. Or walk to canter using trot to progress to the faster gait.

A direct transition is when you go from one gait to another without using the intermediary gait; for example going from halt to trot with no walk strides or canter to walk with no trot strides.

Transitions within a gait for example are; collected trot to medium trot so staying in the same gait but adjusting the ground cover and height of steps to either collect or extend.

The benefits of riding transitions really are huge:

  • Teach the horse to go in front of the leg
  • Develop impulsion
  • Encourage acceptance of the bridle
  • Improve connection
  • Develop muscles and improve topline
  • Improve joint flexion
  • Develops Balance
  • Improve rhythm
  • Develop the horses ability to lengthen and shorten his frame
  • Encourage the horse to take more weight onto his haunches to lift the forehand and teach/ improve collection
  • Develop self carriage

How are these benefits achieved?

When you ask your horse to do a downward transition his hind legs have to engage, coming further forward and underneath his body and his frame shortens. The joints of the hind leg bend to allow for a slight ‘sit’ position. As the hind legs become further under the body the rider will feel the horse lift his forehand and the rider will feel as if he has more of the horse in front of him than behind him. The transition should feel slightly uphill with a lightening and softening of the rein.

When riding an upward transition again the hind legs have to engage and you should feel the same lightness and softening of the forehand as your horse pushes with his hind legs and lifts his back as he moves to an upward gait.

There are many exercises that you can use for transitions but it is always the quality of transition that will be more important than the format you use.


A great exercise to try is to count 10 walk steps and then trot. Keep repeating   but dropping a step each time until you are riding only one step of walk between the trot each time.

Once you have practiced this exercise enough and your horse is finding it easy you can progress to no walk steps and instead try a transition within the trot. Keep your horse in the trot and then think of asking him for the walk step, as your horse starts to think about walking ride him forward again. By thinking and preparing for walking you have engaged your horse’s haunches ready for a transition but instead of riding walk he has powered on in the trot. He has lowered his haunches and lightened his forehand and you have started to ask for a slight degree of collection. This exercise is also great for improving self carriage if your horse tends to lean on your hands.

More tips to come next month. Do pop on to our social media platforms and let us know if you would like anything specific covered.
DJ Dressage 


If you want to check back on some of DJ Dressages posts here is a few of our Favorities.
Scales of training – Dj Dressage
Understanding the aids – DJ Dressage series Part 1

DJ Dressage – Part 3 – Seat & Weight aids