A JUDGE’S PERSPECTIVE
Equestrian Life thanks Eurodressage for the following words of wisdom from Maribel Alonso.
According to FEI O-Level judge Maribel Alonso, the most common and most obvious mistake judges see in the simple change is the horse falling into trot before he reaches the walk. “For some amateur riders it is not always clear to them, or the judges, that the simple change is a transition from canter to walk, (3-5 steps of walk ideally), then back into canter,” Maribel once explained to Eurodressage. “However, canter to walk is a difficult transition, as the horse needs to be slightly collected to make a good transition directly to the walk. The horse must also remain relaxed, maintaining a good rhythm both in canter and in walk, as well as keeping the straightness. Riders therefore have to use effective half-halts to maintain their horse’s ability to stay active and listening. All these elements need to be there at the moment of the transition in order to avoid a loss of balance as the horse goes into the walk.”
Maribel is typically forced to lower the marks for a long list of reasons: “Either, the horse dived into walk, trotted all the way through, the horse was not straight into the downward transition or the upward one, the horse was not really through and therefore was not relaxed in the neck or in the body, the horse took the wrong canter lead after walk, the horse was behind the bit, against the bit, showed an unclear rhythm in walk, was resisting or reluctant to go forward into canter. All these examples belong to the 4s and less.”
With all these things to avoid, there are also many elements to the simple change which can help us reach those top marks. “Top marks will be awarded for a good lively, clear and active canter, with good self-carriage, showing relaxation of the body and back,” says Maribel. “Straightness is also important, as is the degree of collection, so the horse is able to respond to the half-halt while remaining in balance, flowing into a relaxed clear and active walk, and then returning smoothly into an uphill canter, without diving and while keeping the vertical. Judges are really looking for a smooth, straight, uphill transition that fluently goes from an active clear walk, and back into an uphill canter, without losing the straightness and balance. The simple change should be free of tension, with good self-carriage and some degree of collection.”