Your horse is saddled and it’s time to ride. You follow your usual routine...take your horse to the arena, mount, and begin riding the rail. Reverse, ride the rail the other way, maybe circle here and there. While this routine certainly serves its purpose, too much repetition and rail riding can get boring for both you and your horse fast. It’s time to break up the monotony of your rides! This is easily done by trying new patterns that challenge both you and your horse.
Below are 5 new patterns to learn, and master! Each can be customized or combined with another to create a new more interesting workout. Practicing new patterns often will improve the attention span of your horse as well as his suppleness, too!
Important things to keep in mind:
-Always ride exercises in both directions, if your horse is weaker on one side, spend slightly more time on that side than on the strong side until your horse is mostly “even”.
-Always ask with a light aid first. Increase your cue as needed until the result is achieved and then ask again with a light cue.
-Keep your head up, look forward, heels down and breathe through your belly.
-Encourage your horse to ride the circle through use of your inside leg at the girth, outside leg just behind the girth and outside rein closing the shoulder. The inside rein can be used to correct the nose, but do not rely on it to pull your horse around the circle.
-All of the following exercises can be ridden at any gait.
How: Ride down the long side of the arena, when you approach the corner turn as if you were going to make a circle, instead of completing the circle, go back to the rail, go straight down the long side of the rail (you are now traveling in the opposite direction), complete a stride or two and then angle back out and gently circle back to your starting position. Imagine you are tracing a curvy B.
Four Leaf Clover:
How: Keep the shape of a large rectangle with a circle at each corning in mind (loosely resembling a four leaf clover). Start in the middle of the imaginary box, move forward and track right to complete a circle. When you are almost to the point where you started, go straight, now tracking down the short side of the imaginary box. Once you reach the corner of said box, track right and complete another circle, once completed travel straight down the long side of the box and repeat. Try to keep your lines as straight as possible and your circles the same size. Change directions and complete the exercise again.
Big Serpentine, Little Serpentine
How: Ride a series of “S” shapes down your arena, longeways. When you get to the end of the arena, track either left or right and continue to make serpentines up the length of the arena towards your starting point, but this time make your “S” shape more squished and flat, resulting in tighter turns and more serpentines completed before returning back to the point where you started..
Spiral In, Spiral Out
How: Start with a large circle and slowly spiral inwards towards the center of your large circle. Once you’ve reached the smallest circle (your horse wil tell you when they cannot complete a smaller circle, you may feel loss of tempo, break of gait or loss of balance - do not force your horse to turn sharper than their comfort zone), begin to spiral outwards until you reach the large circle you started with. Switch it up and change the speed at which you spiral in/out without changing the tempo of your horse.
Tempo & Transition Control
How: Down the length of the arena, increase your horse’s speed. Once you reach the short side of the arena, collect and slow your horse. Once you get the hang of it, change the tempo of your horse every every ¼ part of the arena. Do this same exercise but instead of changing tempo, transition upwards or downward to another gate.
There you have it! Five exercises to try other than simply riding the rail the entire time. With diversified repetition (doing different exercises frequently), your riding and feel will improve and you will ultimately be more connected to your horse. Your horse will become more supple, more strong and more attentive to your cues. Have fun!