In watching the video of my test for the InterDressage show, I was disappointed in my transitions. My downward transitions, in particular, are often more of me falling into the gait and less of the smooth, fluid, balanced movement it should be. Fortunately, a few days ago I read a great post on the Horse Listening blog about transitions. As I read it, I remembered all the lessons with Sandy where she coached me exactly the same way.
This morning, I was in the saddle before 6am. Brett and Mufasa joined us. Brett spent time working on getting Mufasa to reach long and low in their warmup. Mufasa got the idea, liked it, and started yawning. It was pretty funny. Brett has a tendency to choke on the reins a bit (coming off will shake your confidence, I know). This morning he was able to let go a bit and trust. Mufasa responded by relaxing and stretching. Brett could feel the improvement in Mufasa's walk.
Meanwhile, Miss Lucy and I worked on transitions. I'm pretty good at setting things up before the transition but I have a tendency to quit actively riding as we go through the transition itself. I notice this particularly in trot --> walk transitions. I quit riding and Lucy stops. Completely. Today, I started the transition by slightly tensing my ring finger, I kept my leg on (instead of just hanging loose) and changed the rhythm in my seat from trot (up-down) to walk (forward-back). Then, and this was the big change, I gave another half halt with my ring finger as soon as we were in walk -- with my leg on. Lucy tucked her butt under me and motored into a beautiful, seamless walk. I remember Sandy teaching me to do this on Winston and on Lucy -- but it just never stuck. During the lesson, I'd be saying to myself "How cool is this!" Then I would go home and gradually forget it while I focused on other things (relaxation for Lucy, obedience for Winston).
Lucy was happy with me in equal measure to my happiness with her. She doesn't like being deserted in the transitions. When I got everything coordinated, her ears were perked and attentive, she was forward, and she was happy.