Canter to Walk Transition training Tip

Wondring if any one has tips on teaching green-ish dressage horse canter-walk transition? He has been under saddle about year and a half. Doing great at training level and playing with first and second. I’m really happy with his walk to canter transitions but last few days we’ve been trying out the canter to walk. So far it goes canter-more collected canter-pretty collected canter-trot-trot-trot-walk.
I’m hoping he’ll get it with repitition and praise for fewer and fewer trot steps but is there anything I can do to help him understand and sit a little easier? I was doing some bigger canter then smaller and back to bigger but thought there may be some pros out there with good ideas. It feels like we aren’t strong enough to really sit and pull it off smoothly. I do have a trainer but lessons are about once a week and thought I could find some helpful tips in the mean time.
Also… tense in the walk? He sort of gets stuck sometimes possibly anticipating next upwards transition and his walk is quite tense and not as long and relaxed as it should be (think end of rider march toward exit) I feel like with a lot of repetition of going straight into marchy walk and maintaining it he’ll get out of this… any possibly tips there?
Thank you :slight_smile:
PS- I’ve competed through second level and got Bronze Medal scores on my first horse that I started as a teenager (this is my second and I started him under saddle) so I am less knowledgeable than I’d like to be!

IMMHO, the « Canter - fewer steps of trot » won’t make it into a « Canter-walk ». Maybe it can work on certain horses but I’ve never achieved it that way.

More legs, less hands. Core/seat cue. Canter on the spot. Core/seat cue. Exhale. Hands forward a little. Walk. Walk. Walk. Canter cue.

If it trots, then walk asap. (with a nice collected/on the spot transition.)

Practice the transition on a 10m circle. (or a half volte) Going toward the wall. Like you would for changing direction.
Going left hand : Half 10m circle at B and walk transition on the short diagonal before the rail at P.

Practice Canter shoulder in. and walk transition in the beginning of the half circle.
Going left hand : F - B Canter SI. B half circle / Walk transition before quarter line. (or somewhere before X)

Practice in Counter canter around the rail, transition to walk and counter canter again.

Never drill. Try a few transitions here and there when you feel it could work.


A trainer once had me gently collect the canter, spiraling in on a circle until it was just too small for the horse to maintain (think develop pirouette, but obviously a horse at this stage isn’t doing one) and then ask and “let” the horse walk when he starts to struggle and lose rhythm. The trick with the small circle is it allows you to use leg, seat, core (less hands) to support the horse and transition, without confusing him. Use your seat “shorter” to collect the canter as the circle decreases. Then, “stop” your seat while holding your core, briefly stopping your elbows, to ask for walk.

The first transitions will be rough, unbalanced, heavy, but hopefully without trot steps. Remember to give, not hang with your hands. You will need to use your reins to ask in the beginning, but don’t hold and brace or your horse will, too. Supporting with your leg, seat, and core will help teach him to carry himself.


You’ve gotten excellent ideas for the canter-walk transition. My advice is, sounds like the horse needs a little more time to develop strength to sit. It takes time.

For the walk, practice tons of free walk or “extended” walk to medium/collected walk, “as if” you’re going to do a transition, then when you feel him getting tense, go right back to a free walk. Do this until he stops anticipating. Take your time. Don’t drill, as Alibi_18 suggested. That alone can make a horse tense and worried.


Thank you :slight_smile: we will practice all of the above and let you know how it goes.

I was told you need a canter collected to the point it is as slow as the walk will be… that worked for me. Work on developing the strength needed for this. It’s not easy for the horse to do correctly and not dump on forehand. Do lots of rubber band canter-collected to Working etc back and forth. Just a few steps of collected until he is strong enough to be really collected. Be sure he doesn’t get in the habit of falling out of the canter-more
leg and collect with seat not hands.

How’s your trot-halt transition? I like to use my voice to reinforce my aides when training theses more advanced transitions. Initially asking for a halt from the canter accompanied by a big WOAH (woah will cold stop any horse I’ve been training) and then send forward into the walk. Next time using a a WOAHwalk to keep things flowing forward a little better. I like to really establish voice aids while lunging because for things like this it’s lovely to be able to focus your body on keeping your horse through, and still be able to ask for the downward transition and know you’re going to get it. And because I used to teach lessons and I love love LOVE being able to stop a horse from across the arena so my mature lady re-rider can get her stirrup back and we can try cantering again without a catastrophe. We can’t use our voice aids at shows, but in training I want to spell it out as clearly as possible fore my horses what exactly I’m asking them to do. I would paint a sign if it would help.

Our trot halt trot is great. I actually trained it on the ground just playing with with him in hand but it carried over really nicely under saddle. I do use my voice pretty regularly, especially when learning a new test- helps get transitions at perfect spot :slight_smile: I’ve also tried it with the canter walk transition and it seems to help clarify but we will have to work more at canter on the spot. Rubber band exercises and more collecting (slow as walk!) are great ideas. I’m also interested in trying the transition on a smaller circle. Definitely trying to avoid the slam on the breaks rodeo stop and using much rein aid… the other horse I ride is an FEI school master and it’s no sweat for him at all. Just trying to get my body to give my greenie the right instructions

Use the wall to help give the idea, so canter smallish circle and as you come to the wall ask for the walk. It should help to back him off a bit. The other aha moment I have had recently is keep the leg on during the WC transition. Helps keep the engagement when you ask.

Working in a figure 8 with any change of gait in the middle of the figure always helped me. Starting with walk/halt or trot/walk the horse knew a request for some kind of change would happen at that point and seemed to be more open minded at that point.

For me, thinking of the hind legs stepping into the walk first helps make me keep using my legs.

And as for allowing/not allowing trot steps - to me, that depends on the horse. My mare is long and was downhill most of her first years under saddle. It took a LOT of strength to do a clean transition well. I find with her getting the proper mechanics in a downward transition is much more important than prompt into walk. So, I would half halt, collect, ask her to sit more, and ask for the downward. Staying sitting and active behind was far more important than whether or not there were trot steps. It was also more important than head position - as she was figuring it out, she was lifting her head and neck WAY up, trying to figure out how to use them to counterbalance her sinking haunches. I just left that along and didn’t worry about it. You don’t want to add in bracing or pulling or fighting the bit as you work on this.

My gelding is super short backed and uphill. In his case, it was more a matter of insisting he walk when I asked, and he was going to automatically do it in proper mechanics. So with him, zero trot steps was the big focus.

With both horses who are opposite types for their struggles in the transition, I still found all the above exercises useful, such as pirouettes into it, and thinking of walk speed in the canter. I throw away my outside aids too much, so focusing on them in order to get their bodies straight where they were no longer in a body shape for canter also helped them come under themselves into walk.

Do a 10 m circle of the wall at the canter, as you return to the wall, take a deep breathe, hold hard in your core, and walk.

A lot of times I find that it is not just the horse that needs the strength but also the rider neeeds that core strength.


For the horse I’m riding now, I had to think /feel canter halt…more for me than him. It was what I needed to use my core enough to get canter walk