Smooth Operator

Perfect your horse's western pleasure transition for the show ring.

The Western Pleasure Transition

A good transition in the show arena is simply a further showcase of your total package. It represents your training, the horse's breeding and degree of handle - along with a good showmanship style.

If there are 15 horses in the finals and the judge calls for a lope, the rider who can make the transition with little or no apparent aid is showing a higher degree of difficulty than the rider who has to pick up his or her hand to keep the horse from falling onto its forehand and speeding up.

Waiting for your chance to pick up a lop in the show pen?  Stop waiting! AQHA's Beginner's Guide to Showing helps you choose the perfect first outfit and gives you tips to prepare you like a pro.

Judges often see riders check the horse three or four times and ultimately pick their hand up and hold the horse wile going into the gait. That type of a transition does not exhibit good showmanship and does not illustrate a high degree of brokeness. The horse may not even required such heavy aid, but the rider lacks confidence and uses it anyway.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, judges also see horses that overreacted to a transition. For example, the horse might have been intimidated or over flexed and behind the vertical when the rider asked for a transition.  When a horse 'hides,' it can suggest to the judge that the horse may have been trained a little harshly, or too much.

Many judges find those two mistakes to be equally offensive.

Get the Good One

Distributing the proper amount of weight over each limb is essential for the perfect transition. Leaning to one side or the other during a transition is one of the biggest reasons that a horse is unbalanced. Perform either a direct or indirect turn to counteract the leaning problem. If the horse leans to the left, do a right turn - if it leans to the right, do a left turn.

Direct turns re-position body parts leaning to either side into correct position. Teaching horses to stay between the reins gets them more broke to guiding and following subtle direction from the rider.

Share AQHA's Beginner's Guide to Showing with your horseback riding buddies. Any rider can take the step to become a first time competitor with this inspirational guide. Plus, AQHA members get a discount!

It's best not to allow a horse to make a habit of performing a poor transition, so as soon as this happens, immediately stop. Quickly analyzing how the weight was distributed when the departure occurred helps decide which corrective maneuver to use.

Let the maneuver correct the balance problem and, ultimately, the transition. The transition will tell you if the horse is not balanced.