Lisa Unleashed: Transitions In Horses And In Life

Published: December 31, 2017 at 12:00 am


At some point in a novice equestrian's education the word transition is introduced. There are upward and downward transitions. One makes the horse move faster, the other slows the horse down.

Horseback riding has an upward and downward transition for each gait, the walk, trot, canter, and gallop, and one downward transition into the halt. During an average ride, horse and rider will execute these transitions dozens of times depending on where they want to go, how fast or how slow, even in the winter snow.

These transitions also mirror the transitions we have in life, in our relationships, in our careers, and in our bond with our animal companions. For example, I'm an addict of the Weather Channel App. I check it for precipitation, temperature, wind, sunrise, and sunset each day. When my horse lived in my backyard, these weather transitions, especially in winter, ruled my life. Should I ride in the morning before the wind picks up, or in the afternoon when four inches of fluffy white snow blanketed my favorite galloping fields.

And what of the colder nights? A transition downward to subzero temperatures would cause me an upward transition to run out to the paddock to toss my horse more hay to keep him warm. A downward transition to the walk while I load flakes of hay into the net tied in the shed with care. Then I would kick into another upward transition from a walk to a gallop to get back to the warm house. Weather transitions are constant, much like life transitions of graduations, new jobs, and new relationships.

Dog Transitions

As one who spends lots of time with my dogs when I'm working from home, I've observed that dogs have transitions at warp speed all day long. Waking up, stretching, heading to the back door for morning business before breakfast. In just this 60-second routine, I can count one upward transition from sleeping to standing, another to walking across the floor, then a mighty one up the stairs to the back door, then a downward transition to stopping at the door, until I can get there to open it. Followed by a upward transition from a halt basically to a full-fledged doggie gallop out across the yard, followed by a immediate halt to pee or poop. And I've always been fascinated as to why horses can poop during all their upward and downward transitions, including jumping, and dogs have to run to a "spot" and stop, and then look the other way, hoping for a little privacy from our eyes, when all we want to do is an upward transition to grab the pooper scooper and take care of their business before it freezes to the ground.

Dog walks mirror horseback riding between the gaits and accompany transitions. But as I take my dogs for a walk, my mind wanders to even more transitions in life. Take our careers for example. We start out at a halt, then we go to school and learn to walk, trot, and canter. Along the way, we may even specializing in our areas of expertise, like collected or extended trotting and canters gaits with even more subtle transitions that create beautiful movements. We gain experience through successes (upward transitions) and failures (downward transitions) that create a body of work for us throughout our lives. Sometimes, we move laterally (that's a horse term to move sideways) into other careers, starting all over again with transitions. But where ever we go, it's a longitudinal leap that spans our lifetimes.

And finally, we don't get anywhere in our transitions with our horses, our dogs, or even ourselves unless we communicate exactly what we want, where we want to go, and at what speed. What ultimately happens to all of us at some point is miscommunication of our transitions. Depending on our moods, our goals, our timelines, even our physical health, we may only want to do a slow upward transition from a walk to a trot, but we overask and end up in a run-away gallop that requires us to go through various downward transitions quickly, without much thought, to get back to our original walk. Then we have to ask all over again. It's like kicking a horse on its sides, when all you really needed was a soft pressure from your calves along his rib cage to get to that slow trot.

As the holidays tend to get everyone wound up in a fast-paced frenzy of upward and downward transitions, remember to take time to slow it all down, live in the moment, and communicate smoothly, softly, and exactly where you want to go and at what speed this holiday season. And may your transition into 2018 be upward!

Lisa Peterson writes about history, horses and hounds at lisaunleashed.com. You can reach her at lisa.peterson@barngirlmedia.com.

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