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Whilst we have completed the update of the rest of our site, our member’s area is still under re-development.

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Sarah Venamore

807 sarah3 crop Sarah, an internationally experienced rider and author, has kindly allowed us to reproduce some of her arena exercises from her fantastic book, “The Right Track”.

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Warwick Schiller

friends smlBorn in Young NSW, Australia, Warwick Schiller fulfilled his lifelong dream to become a horse trainer when he moved to the US in 1990. 

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Breaking-in Mouse

mouse_solus_smallMouse was purchased by our member 'Skye' a while ago at a livestock market. When Skye talks about a condition score of 1.5, she means that Mouse was so thin that all of her ribs were showing, her neck had no muscle, her withers and backbone stood up, and her rump muscles had wasted away!

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Warm-up Exercise 1

Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

Exercise 1: Long & Short Reins Walk

Gait: Walk

Difficulty: horseshoe5

Aim: Transitions/Consistent Rhythm

Instructions

At a letter, ride your horse forward to a medium walk and as you pass a second letter allow your reins to lengthen. Your horse should lower its head and poll in the long-rein walk while maintaining its rhythm.

Passing the fourth letter, shorten the reins and ride forward to a medium walk.

Continue this exercise, changing from a medium walk to a long-rein walk and back to medium walk at every second letter.

You want these transitions to be smooth with your horse maintaining a consistent rhythm – no head tossing, hollow back or double tracks. Your horse’s hindquarters should keep pushing him forward. 

Animation

Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.

ex01_thm

Aids Used in this Exercise

All your aids will be given in the following order:

Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.

Ex_01_aids

Tips

Lengthen rein and long-rein does not mean loose rein, throwing the reins away or holding the reins by the buckle. Long-rein means lengthening your rein by allowing some rein to slip through your fingers. This should allow and encourage your horse to lower his head and poll, however you should still have a soft, light contact on the bit.

Your horse should lower his head not stick it out, so the contact with the bit is lowered with the head.

As you lengthen your rein, you will need to keep your horse moving forward. If your horse has a tendency to meander or become sloppy you will need to use an ‘active’ seat to keep the rhythm while you allow his neck to stretch out.

Shorten your reins by calmly drawing them through your fingers, starting with the outside rein then the inside rein. Use your seat to drive your horse’s hindquarters lightly into the bit for the medium walk. Remember you do not get a horse ‘on-the-bit’ by pulling his head in with the reins, your horse should be pushing into the bit from his hindquarters.

This pattern also has corners, so you can practice your line and bend at a medium walk and a long-rein walk, when you only have your seat and legs to bend your horse.

Complete an equal number of right-rein around the arena as left-rein.

Continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

If you find the exercise too difficult, pass three letters instead of two on the long-rein. This will give you more time to prepare for the medium walk.


Warm-up Exercise 2

Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

Exercise 2: Long & Short Reins Trot

Gait: Trot

Difficulty: horseshoe5

Aim: Transitions/Consistent Rhythm

Instructions

At a letter, ride your horse forward to a working trot and as you pass a second letter, allow your reins to lengthen. Your horse should lower its head and poll in the long-rein trot while maintaining its rhythm.

Passing the fourth letter, shorten the reins and ride forward to a working trot.

Continue this exercise, changing from a working trot to a long-rein trot and back to working trot at every second letter.

You want these transitions to be smooth with your horse maintaining a consistent rhythm – no head tossing, hollow back or double tracks. Your horse’s hindquarters should keep pushing him forward. 

You can either post (rising), sit the trot, or use a combination – sit a few strides then return to posting. Remember, you are trying to establish a consistent rhythm throughout the pace and the transitions.

Animation

Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.

ex02_thm

Aids Used in this Exercise

All your aids will be given in the following order:

Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.

 

Ex_02_aids

Tips

Lengthen rein and long-rein does not mean loose rein, throwing the reins away or holding the reins by the buckle. Long-rein means lengthening your rein by allowing some rein to slip through your fingers. This should allow and encourage your horse to lower his head and poll, however you should still have a soft, light contact on the bit.

As you lengthen your rein, you will need to keep your horse moving forward. If your horse has a tendency to meander or become sloppy you will need to use an ‘active’ seat to keep the rhythm while you allow his neck to stretch out.

Shorten your reins by calmly drawing them through your fingers, starting with the outside rein then the inside rein. Use your seat to drive your horse’s hindquarters lightly into the bit for the working trot. Remember you do not get a horse ‘on-the-bit’ by pulling his head in with the reins, your horse should be pushing into the bit from his hindquarters.

This pattern also has corners, so you can practice your line and bend at a working trot and a long-rein trot, when you only have your seat and legs to bend your horse.

Complete an equal number of right-rein around the arena as left-rein.

Continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

If you find the exercise too difficult, pass three letters instead of two on the long-rein. This will give you more time to prepare for the working trot.


Warm-up Exercise 3

Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

Exercise 3: Introducing the Feel of Half Halt

Gait: Walk and Trot

Difficulty: horseshoe5

Aim: To train and introduce the feel of the Half Halt, as well as smooth transitions.

Instructions

Working trot large (means trot around the sides of the arena). Around B, C, E and A, ride forward into a walk for five strides and then trot on again.

Once you have smooth transitions, from trot to walk and walk to trot, reduce the number of walk strides to four, then three, then two and then one stride.

You can now set your horse up for a walk transition and then change your mind and trot on – you have now executed a half halt.

Animation

Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.

ex02_thm

Aids Used in this Exercise

All your aids will be given in the following order:

UPWARD TRANSITIONS (Walk to Trot):
Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

DOWNWARD TRANSITIONS (Trot to Walk):
Prepare > Body Core > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.

Ex_03_aids

Tips

If you don’t find it too distracting, count the walk strides out loud or get a friend to do it for you. If you can’t tell the correct number of walk strides, then watch your horse’s shoulder pass for each walk stride.

You must prepare for the transition from trot to walk before you get to B, C, E or A. The amount of time you need to get your mind and body ready for the aids will depend on your level of training. Three trot strides before any of the letter-markers, start thinking about the aids you are about to give.

Start to apply the downward transition aids at least one or two strides before the letter-marker. This gives your horse time to respond so that he is walking on the marker. We want smooth transitions – no head tossing, hollow backs or hindquarters trailing out behind.

Strengthen your body core by tightening your stomach and back muscles for all downward transitions before applying the regulating rein.

If your horse does not respond to your body core and regulating reins, then trot forward to the next marker and strengthen you body core and then apply a stronger rein (close your hand and move your elbows back a little). Never forget to yield the rein (soften hands) the instant your horse responds. If you don’t give him this reward he will not learn or, worse still, he may develop ‘conflict behaviour’, where he will actively fight you.

Never give a rein aid without a seat/weight and/or leg aid.

While you are trotting straight, ride straight – even hands, a straight line from elbow to bit, an even weight on both seat bones, even legs and pressure, and always look between the horse’s ears.

Don’t decrease the number of walk strides until your horse is responding to your aids and giving you a balanced and smooth transition.

When you are ready to eliminate the walk stride altogether, follow all the steps ‘Trot to Walk’ aids, yield (soften) the reins but instead of allowing a walk stride, tighten your seat muscles and tighten the back of your thighs as though you are lifting the saddle up and forward (you only want a ‘working’ trot, so remember to relax your seat muscles and leg aid when your horse has continued to ‘trot-on’). You have now executed a Half Halt.

You will use a Half Halt every time you ask your horse to ‘get ready for new instructions’. You may want a change of gait, change of rein, flexion for a circle, a lateral movement; in fact, any time you want something different you will use a Half Halt to let your horse know that something is about to happen.


Warm-up Exercise 4

Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

Exercise 4: Half 10m Circle with Walk

Gait: Trot and Walk

Difficulty: horseshoe5

Aim: Transitions, flexion and the quality of your 10 metre circles.

Instructions

Working trot large (means trot around the sides of the arena), at S ride half a 10 metre circle, at the centre line walk two strides straight to C, then ride half a 10 metre circle, finishing your circle before R. Continue working trot down the long side, at B repeat the two half-circle pattern. This will be repeated at V. Continue at a working trot large and repeat the two half-circle pattern at E and R. Your two strides of walk in these final three patterns will be facing A.

Animation

Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.

ex04_thm

Aids Used in this Exercise

All your aids will be given in the following order:

UPWARD TRANSITIONS (Walk to Trot):
Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

DOWNWARD TRANSITIONS (Trot to Walk):
Prepare > Body Core > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.

Ex_03_aids

Tips

When you complete this pattern, you will have executed 10 x half 10 metre circles and 20 x transitions. Depending on the fitness and flexibility of your horse, your next exercise may need to involve straight work.

10 metre circles require a lot of flexion from your horse, so if your horse is stiff and unable to hold even a half circle you may need to go back to straight warm-up exercises and ask for bend at the corners. Remember to do an equal number of right and left-rein bends.

You must prepare for the transition from trot to walk before you get to the centre line. Remember to prepare your body core (tighten stomach and back muscles) for all downward transitions before applying the regulating rein.

While you are trotting straight, ride straight – even hands, a straight line from elbow to bit, an even weight on both seat bones, even legs and pressure.

Your two walk strides are straight down the centre line, so bring your hands, weight and legs back to even on both sides. Put the letters A or C between your horse’s ears.

Half Halt and trot aid to start the second half 10metre circle. You will now have a new inside rein, seat bone and leg positions.

If your 10 metre circle is accurate, you will meet the long side of the arena one or two strides before the next letter (this allows for the two walk strides down the centre line).


Warm-up Exercise 5

Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

Exercise 5: Half 10m Circle with Halt

Gait: Trot and Walk

Difficulty: horseshoe5

Aims: Transitions, flexion, straightness of halt and the quality of your 10 metre circles.

Instructions

This is the same exercise as Exercise 4, but instead of walking two strides you halt for four seconds, facing straight down the centre line. This exercise can also be varied to a walk and halt, depending on your level of training.

Working trot large (means trot around the sides of the arena), at S ride half a 10 metre circle, at the centre line walk two strides straight to C, then ride half a 10 metre circle, finishing your circle before R. Continue working trot down the long side, at B repeat the two half-circle pattern. This will be repeated at V. Continue at a working trot large and repeat the two half-circle pattern at E and R. Your two strides of walk in these final three patterns will be facing A.

Animation

Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.

ex05_thm

Aids Used in this Exercise

All your aids will be given in the following order:

UPWARD TRANSITIONS (Walk to Trot):
Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

DOWNWARD TRANSITIONS (Trot to Walk):
Prepare > Body Core > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.

Ex_05_aids

Tips

When you complete this pattern, you will have executed 10 x half 10 metre circles and 20 x transitions. Depending on the fitness and flexibility of your horse, your next exercise may need to involve straight work.

10 metre circles require a lot of flexion from your horse, so if your horse is stiff and unable to hold even a half circle you may need to go back to straight warm-up exercises and ask for bend at the corners. Remember to do an equal number of right and left-rein bends.

You must prepare for the transition from trot to walk before you get to the centre line. Remember to prepare your body core (tighten stomach and back muscles) for all downward transitions before applying the regulating rein.

While you are trotting straight, ride straight – even hands, a straight line from elbow to bit, an even weight on both seat bones, even legs and pressure.

Your two walk strides are straight down the centre line, so bring your hands, weight and legs back to even on both sides. Put the letters A or C between your horse’s ears.

Half Halt and trot aid to start the second half 10metre circle. You will now have a new inside rein, seat bone and leg positions.

If your 10 metre circle is accurate, you will meet the long side of the arena one or two strides before the next letter (this allows for the two walk strides down the centre line).


Warm-up Exercise 6

Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.

Exercise 6: Halt Across the Centre Line

This exercise can be varied to a walk and halt, depending on your level of training.

Gait: Walk or Trot

Difficulty: horseshoe5

Aims: Halts, straightness and improving accuracy of turns.

Instructions

Working trot large (means trot around the sides of the arena), halt at C, working trot large, at S turn across the arena and halt across the centre line (facing R), trot on to R, right rein, turn across the arena at B, halt across the centre line (facing E), trot on to E, left rein, at V turn across the arena and halt across the centre line (facing P), trot to P, right rein, working trot large, halt at A, trot large to V. You can continue this exercise by turning across the arena at V, B and S.

Animation

Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.

ex06_thm

Aids Used in this Exercise

All your aids will be given in the following order:

UPWARD TRANSITIONS (Walk to Trot):
Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

DOWNWARD TRANSITIONS (Trot to Walk):
Prepare > Body Core > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield

NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.

Ex_05_aids

Tips

By completing two circuits of the arena you will have completed 9 x Halt and 18 x Corners/Turns. This is great practice to get your turns accurate, your Halts square and Trot from Halt happening smoothly.