If you saw yesterday’s post you would already know, but due to technical difficulties nothing was posted last week. Instead of being posted, the post remained a draft. Sorry, no idea how that happened but here it is!
I thought, perhaps I could do a little series of my favourite training exercises for improving the walk, trot and canter. Based on no logic at all, I shall be starting off with some of my favourite canter exercises. All three of these exercises I find very useful to ride with the school horses, but as we all know, school horses aren’t quite competition horses (at least the ones I ride aren’t 😛 ) so I’ve got no idea if they are any good for you and your horse/s but feel free to try.
Exercise 1 – Canter transitions on a circle
Pretty much, to ride this, you trot a circle anywhere in the arena. Make sure the circle is a good shape to start with and your horse is moving off your leg easily. Once the circle is decent, pick two points on the circle. I like doing the exercise at E/B because our school horses are really used to working on the outside track so when circling at E/B they actually have to think. So when the circle is good and the horse is good and everything, you need to pick your two points, I usually use E and B but you can mix it up a bit if you want. Then on your circle, at one of your points ask the horse to canter, at the other to trot. Then repeat. If your horse starts to anticipate the transitions, you can mix it up a bit by sometimes cantering a whole circle, sometimes trotting a whole circle, but more on that later.
I find this exercise is really useful to improve circle work, improve trot/canter transitions, get the horse listening to your aids. I find its also useful for improving my own riding. It’s good for making sure you always ask for the canter the same way but I also find its useful for my lower leg position. I find when I ask a horse to go forward, I forget to keep my heels down so my feet slip around in the stirrups. With these repetitive upward transitions, as long as I remind myself just before, my lower leg position is gradually getting better (I hope!).
To change up this exercise a bit, some of the things I can think of, but haven’t tried yet, are things like cantering a whole circle sometimes as I mentioned before. Or if your horse is advanced enough, do walk to canter transitions instead. Or if your horse can counter-canter, you could alternate between going into true canter and counter canter after each half circle in trot. Up to you!
Exercise 2 – Half canter figure eights
To ride this, you just start by trotting a figure eight. In our 40 metre arena, it’s pretty much a circle at A and a circle at C and changing the bend at X. So, you start by trotting a figure eight, say you are on the right rein at C, change the rein at X, then are on the left rein at A. When you next get to X, forward to canter and ride the circle towards C. At C, forward to trot, trot on. Just before X, straighten your horse. At X, pick up left lead canter with your horse slightly bent to the left. At A, forward to trot, trot on. Just before X, straighten your horse. At X, pick up right lead canter with your horse slightly bent to the right and repeat the exercise a few times. Yay! Congrats 🙂
I find this exercise is useful for improving the canter transitions, the shape of the two circles which form the figure 8, as well as getting used to making sure the horse is straight before picking up a new bend.
Other variations which could be possible, although I haven’t tried yet are cantering the whole figure eight with simple lead changes or flying lead changes at X.
Exercise 3 – Canter on the inside track
Quite simply, you canter on the inside track. Done. You may do this all the time, but I don’t and I find it very useful when I do because, as I already mentioned, our school horses are quite used to their outside track. So, cantering on the inside track is something new and challenging for both of us. Not really sure how else to explain it other than, canter on the inside track.
I find this exercise helps to make sure the horse isn’t just on autopilot mode. To make sure they are listening to me, which in turn makes me a better rider (hopefully) by HAVING to ride properly. Of course I also try to, but sometimes when they go on autopilot, it’s quite easy for me to as well, of course I try not to but that’s why I like this exercise. It helps the horse think, woohoo!
I reckon you could do heaps from this simple exercise. You could just pretend that the outside track is taken over by lava so you have to ride on the inside track. Do transitions, do circles, do serpentines. I don’t know what else you could do, but feel free to try it out.
I am not a trained instructor. I am not telling you to do any of these exercises. I am just telling you what some of my favourite exercises are. If you want to try them, please think about the level at which you and your horse are at. If you do them, you do them at your own risk. I don’t mean to sound ghastly or anything, I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.
So, should I tell you my favourite walk or trot exercises next? Comment below 🙂 Bye!
The Horse Habit