My transitions suck. I know this elusive beast will haunt me for many years to come and maybe I’m still too novice to really be fretting about it, but the fact of the matter is, I am having a hard time grasping the concept. I have been slowly gaining on concepts like “forwardness”, “rhythm”, and even my “seat” but “transition” remains a word I can’t yet translate. Admittedly, it may have something to do with the fact that I don’t understand “collection” or “roundness” either. I mean seriously…what is it? I read about it in books. Dressage clinicians harp on it. Rumor has it it’s something you should have. I don’t know what it looks like, what it feels like, if I’ve ever done it, if I’ve never done it…and I have no idea how to get it. But, first things first, right? I am pleased about the progress I can see I have made to date, but know it is a life sport governed by adaptation rather than mastery.
The whole thing makes me laugh a little bit, especially when my coworkers and friends ask with confused expressions on their faces, “don’t you know how to ride already? Why do you take lessons?” I shrug it off, after all, I was a rower in college, something very few people know anything about. Can’t even tell you how many times I told people I was in crew and they said “oh, yeah, crew!” and made a chicken-winged rowboat motion with their arms–and these were the ones that didn’t just respond with a blank look. Ask any rower what rowing is and it will be an eight-hour discussion including many words you’ve probably never heard or at best never actually say and a detailed explanation of many different theoretical techniques. But hey, welcome to the world of any non-mainstream sport. I am still adjusting. I used to play soccer, basketball, volleyball, as well as doing track and field. Most people I encounter have more than a vague idea of what these sports entail. Almost every reason I excelled at those sports has little value in my current sport. I used to get by, quite admirably, on pure strength, heart, and game smarts. Riding is a little bit different, it favors skills like finesse, precision, listening, and relaxation. Sometimes it feels like a 180 degree change from the methods I am accustomed to using to succeed in sports.
Now if only that 180 degree turn could be manifested in a flawless turn on the haunches on the rail.