It’s no secret that the arena can become a dreadfully boring place. Even the strongest, healthiest, most loving and connected horse-and-rider team are sometimes driven into the doldrums by circles and quarter lines and the same letters passing by over, and over, and over again.
Having a stash of exercises to reignite interest in schooling is of huge benefit—to your goals and to your (and your horse’s) sanity. Sometimes a deceptively simple pattern can actually result in all manner of improvements. And that is the case with this little number from the book 50 Best Arena Exercises and Patterns by Ann Katrin Querbach.
In this exercise called “Crossing the Street” you are schooling bending and positioning, riding turns, transitions, and straightness with active hindquarters. Using this arena setup, you may also ride this exercise at different paces and tempos, depending on your level (for increased tempos, the ground poles and cones must be positioned farther apart from one another).
What You Need
4 cones, 4 ground poles.
Referring to Diagram 1, position the ground poles and cones. Leave a distance of about 4 feet (1.2 m) between the cones and poles.
How the Exercise Works
- Begin by riding this exercise at the walk. Ride directly into the arena setup, then straight out. Ride halfway around the circle, then re-enter the arena setup (Diagram 1). Change direction at the center point.
- Look for different ways to ride through this configuration (Diagrams 2 and 3). Select specific points where you will execute transitions (at the cones, for example).
Tips: Plan ahead! Think through the path you are going to take through the arena setup and then look in the direction that you want to go. As you execute transitions, don’t forget to send your horse forward even as he shifts into a slower gait. Keep the connection.
What Is the Horse Learning?
Increased obedience. To actively step under the center of gravity. Transitions between the gaits.
What Is the Rider Learning?
Bending and positioning in turns. Straightness and how to straighten the horse. Refinement of the riding aids. How to frame the horse with her aids. Transitions between the gaits.
What Do You Do If…
Your horse shifts and falls out with his hindquarters.
Don’t ride from your reins, but rather from your body. Repeatedly ride a large circle around the entire configuration so you can double check that the bend, positioning, and active tracking up with the hindquarters remain consistent.
Your horse rushes through the transition.
Vary your path through this arena setup. Keep the horse busy. Avoid riding the transitions too close together.
As the exercise progresses, your horse gets more and more lazy.
Incorporate large circles.