If there is anything in life that can cause stress for people across the board, it is change. Transitions are something that we have many of in life, but often dread and resist. But the one thing that a good horseman is always seeking is how to ride a nice transition. Walk to trot, trot to canter, canter to halt. I've spent many hours in the saddle practicing transitions. Riding these waves of the dance can teach us do much about riding the waves in our life.
* Plan ahead, and be in the moment - A rider prepares for his transition. Whether it be a half an arena away or on the fly, a rider prepares his body before he asks his horse to transition. Preparing mentally and physically are important for a good transition. However, there is a moment when preparation must turn into presence. The canter does not happen in the future, it happens now. The mental capacity that we put in to planning can often turn to worry, which is a hugely counterproductive emotion. A horse looks for clarity from his rider. Clarity is never about knowing the future, it is only about knowing now.
* Sit deep, and fly a little - In a transition, a rider must connect with his seat to be effective. Understanding that sometimes transitions can provide a bit of a rocky ride, the rider has worked for hundreds of hours at finding and using his seat effectively. This happened long before a flying lead change was even thought of. When we are faced with a transition in life, whether it is of our own making or not, one of the things we can do is find our seat, our center, and rely on it. It's important that we know our strengths and skills. We can consciously use them, though we are likely unconsciously using them already. These are things that we have brought with us to this moment, and will carry us through. Though a rider will sit deep and secure, there is a moment in every transition where everything is up in the air. This moment of suspension is needed for the horse to move from one gait into another. It is the only thing that can make the transition happen. Walking out of your job for the last time with 100 dollars in your bank account. Standing at the brink of your loved ones grave and facing what life will be like from there. These are moments of not knowing. But they are moments of faith. Trusting in a higher power, trusting in the process, trusting in yourself.
*Don't forget to exhale, and keep focused on the goal- One thing that will make every transition smoother is breathing. Specifically, breathing out. There is something about exhaling that lets go. Exhaling is a bodily function that releases the toxic gas in our blood, and it causes our bodies to be more relaxed, releasing tension. In life we are often called to let go of things. I personally am not one to do this easily, and it is evident in my riding as well. I have had to exhale a LOT to counteract being a "ride by the seat of my pants" kind of girl. In riding we all want to hang on. No, let go. Let go of those relationships that hurt you, those places that tax you, those things that eat you alive. Sometimes the cords can be more emotional than physical. We can only move forward if we let go of what holds us back. That being said, a rider always focuses on his goal. Look where you are going. A posture of focus holds you up during a choppy change.
* Keep moving forward, but remember it's not about speed - Transitions, yes, even to a halt, require forward motion. Can you imagine the pile of legs and tack on the arena footing should your horse stop moving forward at any point during the transition? However, it's not about speed. Transitions are never, ever, ever about going faster. The goal of every great horseman is to be able to ask his horse to transition into any gait, and keep the same tempo. This, my friends, requires practice, self control, and presence of mind. Just like managing our emotions and actions through these times of change.
My favorite aspect of practicing transitions with my horse is the feeling of lightness and responsiveness that comes through it. Many transitions make one light. I also enjoy the look back over the many transitions that I have had in my life, and feel a little lighter, more prepared, and eager to engage in the next one.