I devised a new exercise last week and am actually rather pleased with it having used it for a number of different clients now.
I’d like to claim all credit for it but you could probably find this exercise in a manual somewhere, but here goes!
This exercise is useful for teaching horse and rider not to rely on the fence line, improve the accuracy of their circles without the fence to guide, and for working on balance, rhythm and suppleness.
To begin, establish the three quarter line. The horse should move straight down the line, and not drift to the track. It usually takes a couple of goes to establish the turn and straightness.
Once the three quarter line is consistently good, the rider can add ins ten metre circle around X. So when they cross the EB line they should start their circle. The circle should stay within the confines of the three quarter lines.
You’re looking for the circle to be a consistent shape, the horse not drifting to the track, and the horse moving from the outside aids. The circle can be difficult for the rider to envisage, so putting a cone or block on X can help give a centre.
Once the circle improves then the transition between the straight line can be worked upon. I found with one of my riders she needed to develop a soft focus; looking down the three quarter line before softly looking 2/3rds of the way around the circle before softly gazing at the end of her three quarter line. This stopped her horse over shooting the line as he came of the circle, and he didn’t lose his balance as he entered the circle.
Everyone I’ve tried it with has been surprised at the difficulty of the exercise considering it doesn’t contain lateral work or transitions.
One lady I taught last week progressed to cantering the exercise which really focused her on the fact her mare accelerated on straight lines, and the fact she needed to use more outside leg on the circles.
Today’s client has a large, slightly gangly horse, so we really focused on maintaining a consistent rhythm in trot and stopping him falling to the fence or relying on it for straightness. Their contact really improved by the end.
Last week I also managed to bring in some lateral work, which can be used for more advanced clients. You could leg yield onto the three quarter line, ride the circle and then ride straight down the three quarter line. That introduces a quick change of bend too, but also encourages the horse to obey the outside leg so the circle should become easier. Alternatively you could leg yield after the circle, which is slightly easier, but care needs to be taken that the horse doesn’t just fall out of the circle towards the track. You could also ride the circle in a different gait to the three quarter line.
Let me know how you get on with this exercise and any variations you can think of.