No matter what discipline you ride, it’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises into your horse’s training. If you get on your horse and do the exact same routine each day, you’ll soon have an unresponsive equine partner. These exercises will instill confidence in your horse and help them become well-rounded.
1) Raised Poles: Often times, riders make the mistake of only placing their poles in a straight row. A horse can jog over 4 or 5 poles in a row with little thought. In order to keep your horse engaged, space out your poles. Make sure they are raised with a trail block. This exercise is great for horses that lack impulsion.
2) Interval Training: This exercise focuses on speed changes. Work your horse at a moderate to high intensity level, and then work them at a slower speed. A good example of this would be sprint drills. Your horse will be at an extended jog, lope, or extended lope, and you’ll move between cones that are roughly 50 feet apart. The next step would be to go down to a regular jog, or walk, for 50 feet, and then start the exercise over again. Make sure to vary gaits!
3) Big Circle, Little Circle: Going down the long side of your arena, choose a corner and ride a small circle. In the diagonal opposite corner of the arena, ride a large circle. The speed you go is up to you. You could lope the small circle and jog the large circle, or vice versa. Interval training is an excellent way to practice bending.
4) Off The Rail: A lot of riders use the rail as a comfort zone. In order to challenge yourself, work your horse in a rectangle approximately 10 feet off the rail. This is an excellent way to enhance your horse’s straightness. This exercise can be done at any pace. To make it more challenging, consistently vary your speed.
5) Serpentine: Serpentines are a great way to mentally engage your horse, especially a longways serpentine. To do this drill, make your serpentine the entire length of the arena. In the middle, perform a maneuver, such as a sidepass or spin. Continue down the center, and finish the serpentine. Tip: This is a superb exercise to practice your simple and flying lead changes.