Setting the Pace

First off, thank you to all you wonderful volunteers who came out yesterday, post-Canada Day hangovers notwithstanding, to pound posts, hammer rails, attack weeds and re-hang gates at Red Colt!  We got a lot done in a short time and we couldn’t have done it without you!


Up until now in our Riding level one test we have done everything — adjusting tack, mounting, and mounted exercises — from a standstill.  Now it’s time to move off, but before we do, a few terms need defining.

  • Aids: These are the physical and verbal language used to communicate with the horse.
  • Natural Aids: The rider’s voice, legs, hand, seat (body) are all natural aids
  • Artificial Aids: Whips and spurs, used to reinforce natural aids.
  • Legs: The lower leg creates impulsion (gas pedal)
  • Hands: Through soft ‘contact‘ with the bit, the hand influences bend and direction of travel (steering) and for beginners is the main ‘brake’ to halt or decrease speed.
  • Seat: The position of the rider’s body always influences the horse.  For beginning riders it is important to sit as softly and evenly as possible so as not to inadvertently give mixed cues.  Once you progress to more advanced riding the seat becomes an important, if subtle, aid.
  • Paces: The four natural gaits of the horse are walk, trot, canter and gallop. Paces are more finely tuned variations within these gaits, such as working trot, medium walk etc.
  • Walk: The slowest pace, with four individual footfalls.  The sequence of footfalls is left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore.
  • Trot: The next ‘gear’ up, the trot is a 2-beat pace.  It is faster and more jolting to the rider than the walk.  The sequence of footfalls is left hind & right fore together, right hind & left fore together.
  • Transition: Change from one pace to another.

The first actual riding we ask you to do in level one is show simple, progressive transitions.

4. Demonstrate simple halt / walk / trot transitions



The word ‘simple’ in here is slightly misleading.  It refers to a progressive change of pace, such as walk to trot, or walk to halt.  If you were driving a car, this would be like changing from 2nd to 3rd gear, or 2nd to 1st.  (A non-progressive transition goes from 1st to 3rd, as in a walk-canter — but we get to those at higher levels).  Transitions of all kinds, however, are anything but simple.  They require an understanding of pace and the coordination aids.

The Half-Halt

Before any change of pace use a half-halt, or prepartory aid, to alert the horse that you are about to ask him something.  A half-halt is performed by slightly increasing contact with the seat and legs with simultaneous light squeezes on the reins.

Halt to Walk Transition

1. Increase contact on the reins, warning the horse you are about to ask him to move (ie, half-halt)
2. Look in the direction you wish to move (generally forward).
3. Give a gentle squeeze with the legs.  If the horse does not move promptly, you can ‘cluck’ or ‘kiss’, say ‘walk on’, give a firmer squeeze with your legs, and as a last resort use your artificial aids.

Walk to Trot Transition

1. Half-halt, increasing leg and rein contact.
2. As #3 above, using ‘trr-ott’ as a voice command if necessary.

Trot to Walk Transition

1. Half-halt
2. Sit tall (but not back) in the saddle, settling your weight on your seat bones.
3. Give a gentle squeeze on the reins.  If the horse does not come back to walk, reinforce the the cue with ‘easy’ or ‘wa-alk’ and stronger squeezes of the reins.

Walk to Halt Transition

1. As above, using the voice command ‘whoa’ if necessary.

As you can see, the half-halt features in all of these transitions, but at level one we don’t expect your half-halts to be particularly polished or effective, or your transitions to be smooth and light.  Simply being able to walk, trot and halt your mount when asked is enough at this level.  However, knowing there is always room for improvement in transitions — no matter what level you attain — allows you to constantly work on making them better.


July Cavaliere Offerings

This coming Sunday, July 8th, is the last chance to get out to an Intro or  Mounted Combat workshop this summer.  Don’t miss out on your chance to swing swords in the sunshine!

Intro to Mounted Combat

Experience the childhood fantasy of being a knight as you take the first step in Academie Duello’s mounted combat program.  This unique workshop brings together swordplay, riding, and horsemanship into an exciting session geared toward beginners.


During this intensive 6 hour workshop you will:

  • Get an introduction to fundamental riding techniques
  • Learn how to safely handle, groom, saddle and bridle your horse
  • Practice horseback sword fighting techniques

Date: Sunday 8 July
Time: 10am – 4pm
Cost $149
Location: Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
Instructors: Devon Boorman & Jennifer Landels

Mounted Combat Workshop

Work from the ground, from the falsemount, and, for those with riding experience, from horseback, learning:

  • how to deliver different strikes and defenses from the back of a horse
  • how to deal with a series of blows from other riders
  • how to protect your horse
  • how to throw/counterthrow a rider
  • how to employ the spear and lance in combat

This workshop is essential for graduating through the ranks of the Cavaliere Program and teaches you the fundamentals you will need to advance. There are no prerequisites and everyone is welcome to join!


Date: Sunday 8 July
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Cost $60 ($150 for 3 workshops)
Location: Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
Instructor: Devon Boorman

Riding & Horsemanship

A new series of Horsemanship starts up on Monday evenings and runs through August.  These classes are for beginners and experienced riders alike, and are a chance to work on riding skills and equine knowledge towards your next level.  What better way to spend those glorious summer evenings than on the back of a horse?

Dates: Mondays 9 & 16 July, 13 & 20 July
Time: 5pm – 8:30pm
Cost: $60 ($200 for 4 sessions)
Location: Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
Instructor: Jennifer Landels

Integrated Package

For those wishing to work on all areas of our Cavaliere Program, you can take all three of our classes each month for the price of two.

Mounted Combat + Riding and Horsemanship: $120/month; $675/6 months

Mounted Games Practice

Starting this week we will be holding Friday Mounted Games Practice to prepare for our tournament on August 26th.  Participation is limited to those with Riding Level 1 and up.  Practices are free on your own or a leased horse.  Cost for use of school horses: $35.  All are welcome to watch, but horse availability is limited.

Dates: Fridays, July 6 – August 24
Time: 4:30 – 7:30pm
Cost: $35 for school horse; free on own or leased horse.



Jennifer Landels Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.