angle-left Tips for Transitions with Buster McLaury

Tips for Transitions With Buster McLaury

Take these tips to improve transitions on your horse.

Buster McLaury rides a palomino horse through mesquite brush while training for transitions (Credit: Andrea Caudill/Journal)

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By Buster McLaury with Andrea Caudill for The American Quarter Horse Journal

Transitions in horseback riding are important, necessary. The more you intend to do with a horse, the more important transitions are. 

There are transitions from standing still to the walk, from the walk to the trot, from the trot to the lope and more. Then, within those gaits, there are about three different speeds. You should be able to transition between those speeds at any given time. 

Getting Started

  • Buster starts colts in a 150-foot pen with a helper on an older horse. That way, the first ride or two, whoever’s riding the colt can just do a little bit with their legs, but the helper can use a flag or rope to help the colt.

  • Get out in the pasture and ride around once you get the colt where you can bend him pretty good in the corral. 

  • Every once in a while, stop the colt with one rein, bend him a little bit, then go again. 

  • Always prioritize release as much as pressure. Reward is just as important as introducing a new cue.

Getting a Feel

Take time to get a feel of your horse with your legs, and give him the opportunity to get a feel of you. The easiest way for a horse to learn to get hooked on your legs is getting in time with his feet. 

  • As his right foot comes back , your right leg is coming in, so it sends his foot ahead. Then, apply to his left. 

  • Give the horse five or six strides to respond if he is young or green.

  • Continue at the same speed your horse is tracking - you don’t quit. 

  • Take a “little life” out of your leg if you want him to slow down. The horse feels that, and he’ll learn to respond to that. 

Polished Training

A pretty sliding stop in the show ring starts the very first time you pick up the rein on a colt. Set the stage to let him learn to follow feel. A young horse has to learn to stop, turn or complete any other advanced maneuver. 

That all comes from the first ride, when you were just bending him and stepping hindquarters over. Get him prepared and you’ll hardly miss a lead. Over time, do less so the horse has a chance to come up with more. Next thing you know, you’ll just be standing still, pick him up and lope off.