Aspire Equestrian Monthly Virtual Training Challenge – Christmas Special

I saw a post on Aspire Equestrian’s blog for a training challenge! I love challenges, and I love free help. So of course I want in on this!!

Training Challenge


  • film 1-2 min of clear footage of one issue you would like a training plan for
  • embed it on your blog in a post titled “Aspire Equestrian Monthly Virtual Training Challenge – Christmas Special” and a short description of what you are trying to achieve and what you are doing on the problem right now.
  • send me a link to your blog post as a comment to this post

Avandarre’s Response to the Challenge:

What we are trying to achieve: Clear, energetic, and relaxed canter-to walk transitions is what I’m working on.

What we are doing currently to get there:  I stole an exercise from a video I watched a couple of weeks ago. The concept was to do a simple change at A, E, C, and B. At each letter, take the opposite lead. So A = true, E = Counter, C = true, B = Counter, etc.

Also working on haunches-in, counter canter, shoulder-in, and half-pass. With a focus on trying to keep my upper body centered and balanced (I have an issue with that).

Our embedded video. Voilà!

16 thoughts on “Aspire Equestrian Monthly Virtual Training Challenge – Christmas Special

  1. Great video and I LOVE your music choice! I actually do not have any good advice for you as I am still riding at Intro/Training Level and I am happy if I get a forward willing canter! LOL Looking good girl!


    • Thanks, Sandra! I’m still looking for the forward, willing canter myself. Some days are better than others.The day before this video all my mare did was buck every time I asked for the canter depart. Haha. I’ll have to post that video for you. You’ll get a laugh out of it. 🙂


  2. Hello and welcome to Aspire Training Challenge!
    It’s a super training goal to work but because the video shows you from far away and I can’t see details in your posture I will need some more answers from you in order to give you a valuable action plan (rather than just generic advice).
    1) Describe your feel one step before you ask your mare for downward transition (own words and in as much detail as you can) – I am after what you feel through your seat, hand and leg as well as her reaction (length of neck, level of relaxation at the poll, acceptance of seat aids etc etc)
    2) If you were to say what stops you from improving on quality of this exercise what would you single out?
    3) If there is any chance of someone filming you with a zoom during your transitions it would be great!

    Speak soon 🙂
    Aspire equestrian Riding Academy


    • 1. Description of one or two steps prior to asking:
      A few steps before I ask I make sure the mare is balanced and (relative to us) collected. Her shoulders are in front of my hips and the base of the neck is in line with the shoulders. Her shoulders tend to fall right if they are going to fall out, even when going left. I normally have to counter flex a touch going left to keep the neck and shoulders aligned. She leans against my right leg sometimes.

      I try to ask when I feel that she is responsive to a seat half-halt. The horse feels straight with just a slight bend to the inside. With my seat, I ask for the downward tran when the front inside leg pushes off, or possibly when the hind outside leg is in the air (at least I’m trying to ask about then). I lift my seat a just a smidgen off the back when I ask (to give her some room to bring her back up), I sink my weight down through my feet, and still the movement of my hips while tightening my core. My hands stay in place but I may close my fists if the seat half-halt wasn’t enough to get a response.

      I try to keep my weight centered over the middle of the horse, but I sometimes find I am off slightly to the right. This is more pronounced when we are going left, and probably is a main reason for why left lead canter/walk transitions are worse than to the right.

      I can feel her mouth. She’s not leaning on the bit, but I can feel a solid, elastic connection to the bit. She does get tense through the neck sometimes, and will brace with the underside of her neck. When she braces, her poll can get very locked. I can flex her either side (just to where I can see the corner of her eye) and she willingly flexes, but when I ask for the transition it feels like she braces from the poll down through the base of her neck. If I ask for several transitions into and out of canter/trot I can usually loosen that up, but sometimes I have to ask for long and low to really get her to relax and use her neck correctly again.

      2. Preventing quality trans:
      The inside hind isn’t moving far enough under the body to hold the weight of the horse in the downward, which causes her to fall onto her forehand. Part of this is probably due to not being engaged enough prior to the downward transition. The other part is due to her holding tension through the head/neck, and not correctly using her back up through her neck. I also think the issue with her shoulders falling right is creating problems, or is a symptom of a bigger issue. I have some exercises that I was given to help with this, but they don’t always work every day. She is stronger to the right, and stiffer to the left. I tend to pull back when I feel things are going poorly, and I grip with my knee’s too much. I also hang on the inside rein too much, although I’m consciously attempting to NOT do that so it’s better than it used to be.

      3. Video: I can’t get a zoomed in video of the transitions at this time. I did have my husband video a little the other day, but I rode so poorly that I’m embarrassed to post it. It was just terrible.


      • Hello there!

        These descriptions are really good and give me plenty to base my plan for you on.
        Would you be happy to send the video link to my email? If you do, please go ahead: aspire at outlook dot com. It won’t go anywhere else and will be seen by my own eyeballs only so I can help you properly 🙂 Don’t worry if you’d rather not, I should be able to give you something to work on anyway.

        Your plan will be with you in the next couple of days, I will comment on here so you know when it’s ready.

        Best wishes!


  3. Pingback: And the Brave Blogger Taking Up the Aspire Virtual Coaching Challenge Is………Avandarre in Dressage! « NewsBook by Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy

  4. You guys look super! The walk/canter transition took me quite a while to master (not that I have mastered anything about dressage …). I would say the only advice I have for you is that you need to have a way more collected canter before you do the transition. Think canter on the spot. But I love the jump in your horse’s canter! 🙂 Nice job!


    • Karen – You like the jump? I am so thrilled you said that. I’ve been working for the past 4 months to develop more jump in the canter and I was second guessing myself about how well I was doing on that. I’m so used to seeing her canter that I only see the negatives. So, Thank YOU! I’m doing a little happy jig right now. 🙂

      It does seem to be an issue with collection. Canter right lead is easier to get a relatively decent downward trans because she’s a little easier to collect on that lead (not great, but easier than the left). I’ll try asking for more collection prior to asking for the downward. That’s a really good idea! Thanks!


  5. I am not nearly advanced enough in dressage for any advice- my horse is only 5 (under saddle a little over a year) and we’re just trying to get trot-canter transitions! Although his canter-walk transitions are just naturally in there. But he doesn’t have any of that other fancy stuff yet like counter canter. I just wanted to tell you your horse is GORGEOUS! And all black with four white feet and a white face… my dream horse.


    • Thank you! Ava is a looker. They call her Cover Girl at the barn. She also has two blue eyes, which was a bit hard for me to adjust to when I first got her. She always looked spooked. Haha.

      In my opinion, and I would hope this is shared by others, someone at training level can still know and identify when something is unbalanced, on the forehand, crooked, etc. Some people might not quite have the knowledge yet to put exactly what they’re seeing into clear words, but I’ve heard some great advice from people who haven’t competed higher than training level yet. I have a friend, Pam, that almost always says something insightful about her training that directly applies to issues I’m struggling with. And another friend, Karen, who always has the best exercises. Dressage all boils down to the basics. So please don’t ever feel like you don’t have anything of value to add. We’re all struggling toward the same goals. 🙂


      • Well that’s sweet of you! I still have no suggestions in this particular instance ha. We are barely doing shoulder fore, nor do we yet counter canter 😉 Although these things are starting to be introduced… so I’ll probably need YOUR help more! Ha! But you’re right, it’s much easier to see things from the ground and know what needs to be done than to actually implement that on the back of a horse!


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