If your horse is like mine, they are perhaps a little more excitable this week for some reason! So this week, please just make sure to stay safe!
This week’s exercises is very simple, and all about control. Canter a pole and halt on your line of travel.
You can do this on a straight line, or on an arc/circle.
With Scotch, the tricky part was convincing her the pole was not exciting, but the halt was easy and correct (albeit, not always stationary). As she struggled to be straight to the pole, I did some counter canter or counter flexion to help with straightness.
With Midas, he tends to lose some balance at poles, so I didn’t rush to ask him to halt, I stayed off his back in two point on the way there, over, and a couple strides after before asking for the halt. With him, I just wanted to get the halt before we hit the end of the arena, and I upped the difficulty by changing from a more collected canter/short distance, and a hand gallop/forward distance, while still getting the halt before the end of the arena.
Have fun and stay safe!
Midas’s challenge this week is an equitation challenge! Set up some trot poles and ride them at posting trot, then two point and then sitting trot. Are you able to do all three with your horse maintaining the same spacing? Next try at a canter in a half seat, two point and sitting!
|How to set poles:
Trot poles should be set between 3 feet (collected trot) and 4.5 feet (working trot). For a good average pole spacing, take one large step between the poles.
Canter poles should be set at 9 feet. This is about three people steps between poles!
If you aren’t sure, you can set them on a bit of an arc and ride the inside, middle or outside of the arc and see what rides the best for your horse.
Why? A rider should aim to be effective, while not inadvertently interfering with their horse, or throwing them off balance.
- If you find your horse is getting quicker or “chipping” to the poles, then you are likely throwing them off balance as you change your position. Try to remember that it is your CORE that should control your position (not your lower back!) and that you need to control how quickly you adjust your position using both eccentric and concentric muscles (push and pull muscles).
- If you find your horse’s stride is getting longer when you change your position, you are likely allowing your horse to lengthen its neck which will result in a longer stride. Remember you can lengthen and shorter your reins to maintain contact.
- If you find your horse’s stride is getting shorter when you change position – sit, then you are likely interfering with your horse’s back. This could mean your reins have gotten too short, or that you are blocking your horse’s back with a stiff seat. You need to absorb your horse’s back motion by tightening your core (damn that core again!), and “lifting” your horse’s back with your seat bones.
This one sounds easy, but give it a try!
Walk up to a pole (on your horse), collect it’s walk, and try halting your horse with only one leg over a pole.
Why? This is a simple test of the “whoa” response. A horse that locks its jaw or otherwise braces/hesitates before listing to the rein pressure won’t be able to resist taking the second step over the pole.
You might notice your horse always steps over with the same leg, usually a right dominant horse will step over with their left leg first.
Trouble Shooting: If your horse insists on stepping over with the second leg, you don’t have a prompt rein response. Work on the prompt response on a circle with some inside flexion, and by lifting up. Accelerate the pressure from a light to strong response with an immediate softening when you get the whoa. Remember that even though we are working on JUST the rein response, you still want to sit up and not throw your horse off balance.
Looking for motivation/ideas during our four week break? Each week I will post exercises to try if you wish!
This week, try riding with your reins in one hand. Riding with your reins in one hand has a few benefits: it helps you test how much you rely on your inside rein (and forces you to use other aids), and it allows you to do some equitation exercises!
Midas’ Challenge: Try riding a pole pattern/course with your reins in one hand.
- Try to alternate which hand you use to hold the reins. Do you find it harder with one hand than the other? Working on your weak side can help your overall riding symmetry!
- Try to do the pattern with your “free” arm stretched over your head. This helps put your upper body in “neutral” and can help with both a hollow or rounded posture.
- Try to do it posting and in two point!
Scotch’s Challenge: Try riding a circle at walk, trot and canter, with your reins in one hand.
- Spiral in and out of the circle, increase bend and decreasing stride length to spiral in, and decreasing bend and increasing stride to spiral out.
- Alternatively, you can spiral in and out by using leg yield aids to push the horse in on the circle (with a mild outside flexion), or leg yield out with the inside flexion.
- Try a figure: are your two circles the same size?
Remember to look where you are going with your shoulders.
The slower you go, the easier it should be, so if you are having trouble, SLOW DOWN.
Remember to rebalance your horse often: an unbalanced horse will be on his forehand, and will fall in and out through its shoulders.
Resist crossing your hand hard over the neck: if you have to use a strong rein of opposition (outside rein), you are just throwing your horse off balance to the inside. Revisit the basics: are you looking where you are going? Are you making sure your horse is going at a balanced and comfortable pace? Are you helping your horse bend with your inside leg at the girth, and turn with your outside leg gently pressing behind the girth into the turn?