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Guest Blog # 122: Walk... Don't Walk by Bill Woods
A seemingly minor issue where you can gain or lose points in a test (or just make the judge crazy) is how you make your transitions in and out of the halt.
Let's begin with Intro and Training Level rides where the directive permits transitions between trot and halt "through the walk." In these cases it is not mandatory to make walk steps, but doing so allows the transition to be more fluid and less abrupt, hopefully with the horse staying in front of your leg. Having said that, it does not mean endless strolling or meandering into an eventual stop. A good number of walk steps might be two or three, but they should be attentive and marching and not a listless trickle as the horse runs out of gas and finally stands still.
The same idea applies in the upward transition where at those levels the horse needs not spring into an immediate, active trot but should still look involved and on the aids. Training Test 3 might be an exception where a whole score is devoted to the upward transition from Medium Walk to trot. Then you had better be crisp, sharp, and connected if you want to be rewarded!
At First Level and above, ideally the halt should be directly from the trot, and when it’s not you are apt to lose a half or whole point. That said, if the choice is a prompt halt where the horse inverts or a fluid one with a walk step, tactically you should choose the latter.
By the time you get to Second or Third Level, the transition with walk steps shows a lack of balance and hints at avoiding the required difficulty of the movement. Your score will reflect that avoidance.
Remember: assuming you can achieve acceptance and a degree of squareness, the ideas you are playing with are to make the halt both smooth/fluid and prompt.