Basic Arena Exercises - Make it Fun.

Discussion in 'Training Horses' started by PPH, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. PPH

    PPH Guest

    I don't know about anyone else but I find that I get really bored schooling and riding cricles. Going through some old mags and books the other day I found an article with 10 basic arena exercises that helped me break the monotony of it all. Alot of them are just variations of basic exercises that you may already know but I hope someone will get something out of them

    They all have options to increase or decrease the difficulty and skills required so you can taylor the difficulty to you and your horse. They are also good for improving your horses responsiveness, suppleness and muscle tone.

    I hope you find them as useful as I have.**)

    NOTE ** To get the most out of these exercises, make sure you
    - ride each exercise in both directions.
    - Use your inside leg on the girth to bend your horse on circles and through turns. Use your outside leg just behind the girth PLUS your outside rein against his neck to reinforce his bending.
    -Use your leg at or just behind the girth and the same side rein ahainst the neck to ask for lateral movement.
    - Work to make your cues as light and as supple as possible
    - Look ahead to where you are going not down at your horse or the ground.


    How To Ride It: Make a figure of 8, using the straight line of the centre to change your horses bend before heading in the new direction.
    Perks For You: Improves your ability to bend your horse, guide him precisleystraight between your reins whilst bent to the curve of the circle.
    Perks For The Horse: Encourages him to bend equally both ways and stay in tune to your steering.
    Success Tips: Focus on keeping your circles round and even in size. pay attension to the amount of rein and leg needed to get the correct bend. Add a cone or marker at the centere of the 8 as a visual cue if needed.
    Change It Up: Keep it simple by staying at a walk or a jog. make it more challenging by varying your speed, changing gaits at x or riding at a canter and changing leads at X.


    How To Ride It: Go down the long side of your arena, making a small circle in one corner, continue around the arena then make a large circle in the diagonally oppisite corner.
    Perks For You: Enhanced ability to bend your horse to varying degrees.
    Perks For The Horse: Increased supplying and steering, teaches him to balance an circles of varying size.
    Success Tips: Choose landmarks around the arena to help you circle at the right point for the correct size cricle you are wanting to ride.
    Change It Up: Vary which corners you ride the small and large circles, make it more challenging by varying the speeds and changing gaits ie lope the large circle and jog the small one, or jog the circles and lope the long side of the arena getting to the next corner.


    How To Ride It: Go down the long side of the arena turning the corner as if to make a circle. Instead of completing the circle, angle back to the rail, go straight a stride or 2 on the rail then angle back out and circle round to your starting point making a loopy B.
    Perks For You: Improves your skill at bending and straightening your horse and control.
    Perks For The Horse: Propmpts him to listen to you rather than assume you are going to make a full circle. If you 2 track him, it improves his lateral flexibility as well.
    Success Tips: Try to make each end of the loopy B the same size and shape.
    Change It Up: Keep it simple by staying at a walk or trot. Make it more challenging by riding at a lope and changing leads on the straight line at the centre. Up the ante at any gait by using your outside rein and leg to move your horse laterally back to the rail in a forward and sideways 2 track.


    How To Ride It: Make a series of connected S's back and forth across the width of your arena.
    Perks For You: Forces you to focus on each new turning point, changing your rein and leg cues at each change of direction.
    Perks For The Horse: Sharpens your horses bending skills. Improves his lightness and flexibility as well as improving his listening to your cues.
    Success Tips: Try to make each loop the same size and shape.
    Change It Up: Keep it simple with olnly 2 or 3 loops. Up the ante by adding 4 or 5 narrower loops. very challenging at the lope, where you must repeatedly change leads on each straight line or counter canter around every other loop.


    How To Ride It: Rather than staying directly on the rail, ride parallel to it, about 8 to 10 feet to the inside.
    Perks For You: Teaches you to keep your horse straight between the reins with no rail to guide or support you or him.
    Perks For The Horse: Teaches him to rely on your cues rather than "coast"along on the rail.
    Success Tips: Start a a walk then progress to the trot and lope.
    Change It Up: Make it more challenging by varying your speeds on the short and long side ie speed up on the long side, slow down and collect on the short side.


    How To Ride It: Move from the outside of a large circle to the smallest circle possible by slowly spiraling down toward the centre, then spiral back out to the large circle.
    Perks For You: Improves your spatial sense of circles and your go-lateral cues.
    Perks For The Horse: Imprves his bending and collection as well as improving the responsiveness to your leg and rein cues. Also helps to keep him supple and limber and engaged behind.
    Success Tips: Focus on maintaining a consistent speed. As the circle gets smaller, you may have to drive him a little harder to maintain implusion.
    Change It Up: This is challenging at any gait; stay at a walk until you get the hang of it before attempting at the trot or lope.


    How To Ride It: Make a serpentine the length of the arena, rather than the width.At the X, do something. Stop, perform a maneuver (sidepass, pivot, backup etc) or cue a lead change if at a lope. Then continue down the remainder of the centre line, turning back up the rail in the oppisite direction.
    Perks For You: Makes you work to keep your horse straight down the centre line, before and after the X.
    Perks For The Horse: Enhances his traveling straight, bending and transition skills.
    Success Tips: Have a cone at centre and ends as visual markers.
    Change It Up: Keep it easy with a simple stop or gait change at the cetnre or up the antes with a lead change, sidepass, spin etc. change what you do each time to up the antes further and prevent him anticipating what you are about to do.


    How To Ride It: Increase the speed and extend riding down each long side of the arena, slow and collect around the short sides.
    Perks For You: Helps you learn how to increase and decrease speed smoothly.
    Perks For The Horse: Encourages your horse to collect himself. teaches him to increase and decrease speed without getting excited as well as developing the muscles he needs for collection.
    Success Tips: Steady your horse down just before the slow downgoing to the corners.
    Change It Up: Keep it simple by staying at the walk or the trot. Make it more more challenging by riding it a a lope or loping the long sides and trotting the ends.


    How To Ride It: Work on the rail, performing gait transitions at the mid point of each straightway of both the long and short sides. ie start at the walk, at the first x jog, next x lope, or go back to walk - however you like.
    Perks For You: Helps you smooth your upward and downward transitions as well as enhancing your over all control.
    Perks For The Horse: Maintains his focus on you, improves his collection and builds his hind end muscles.
    Success Tips: Make mental notes of the transition points before starting, so you can begin prepping yourself a stride or 2 before each x. Add visual markers if need be.
    Change It Up: Make it more challenging by working at faster gaits or asking for a complete stop. Or go from lope to walk, halt to lope, or include a backup as well. Mix it up so your horse stays tuned in to you.


    How To Ride It: Think of a square with rounded corners. Ride straight to each corner, bend him through the turn then realign him for the next straightway.
    Perks For You: More challenging than a circle. keeps you thinking and really riding.
    Perks For The Horse: Helps him understand the difference between bending and travelling straight.
    Success Tips: Add a cone or marker at each corner for a visual cue.
    Change It Up: Make it easier by keeping at a walk or a jog and/or widening the turn at each corner. make it more difficult by making him work at the lope and/or riding tighter corners.

    Feel free to add any you have. The more the better.:)
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 1, 2011
  2. Noelle

    Noelle Gold Member

    I've printed this off so will try and have a go. **)
  3. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    I've got one that's been working well lately. Very good for horses that are hard to get going and keep going, and unconfident horse/rider combos who don't like going fast. Good for horses that lack motivation and forward. Good for regulating gait and speeds within gait using seat only (can't use reins unless you are losing control). Good for horses that get confused between an ask for 'go bigger/smaller in this gait' and 'go up/down a gait' Good for rider to get in rhythm, and set a new rhythm for horse to follow. Good to address rein dependence. Good for rider not balancing on reins or horse pulling. If it's too much to try in arena, do it first in smaller space of roundyard.

    Real simple. Ride the rail at walk and reins at buckle until horse is chilled. The rail is useful for your horse to follow and you don't have to worry about direction.

    Then try to walk as fast as possible without breaking into a trot (no kicking, one ask only, keep rhythm with your seat not by pushing with legs). Once you got a few good steps, rub your horses neck then slow your hips down and see how slow you can walk without stopping (no reins). Keep transitioning between fastest and slowest walk. Once it's going well and transitions are telepathic, try another gait combo.

    Then do same with fastest walk and slowest trot. Then slowest trot and fastest trot. Then fastest trot and slowest canter. Then slowest canter and fastest canter. Then back down the gears in reverse. Then go other direction.

    It very basic, not very dressagy, and probably very bad for lots of reasons, but it's one thing I could do all day in an arena without getting bored and my horse gets super switched on and confident because it's so predictable and easy for him to be right. Good warmup for us stressheads too.
  4. needanswers

    needanswers Well-known Member

    Cooling down Hot Heads

    Good to do at a show when your mount won't settle. Get your horse in a collected walk and walk in a rectangle (like an arena). turn down the 3/4 line of your rectangle and ask the horse to yield out to the 4/4 line. As soon as you get there drop the reins and allow a stretch for the rest of that length of your rectangle arena.

    Collect the reins and again go up the 1/3 line and ask for yield and do the same with the stretch when you get there.

    Helps to give the horse a job, listen to aids and relax.
  5. Merlin

    Merlin Well-known Member

    Sorry don't agree with your outside rein statement. You shouldn't have to use your outside rein against the neck to reinforce the bend!!!! Surely opening inside rein, a pulsing inside leg into an outside rein CONTACT maybe with a few half halts is better than "against his neck"? You still want forward :)
  6. PPH

    PPH Guest

    That's fair enough Merlin, we all ride different. It was more about the exercises than the aides, something to break the monotony of endless circles. :) Taylor them to what suits you and how you ride.:):))

    Not sure if this is how everyone rides but this is how i have been taught. Hope this explains it a bit better.

    *Your inside leg on the girth. This leg is for the horse to bend around and also prevents your horse falling into the circle.

    *Your outside leg just behind the girth but passive. This leg is guarding the horse's quarters if they swing the quarters out of the circle.

    *Your inside hand is for the bend of the neck only. It asks for bend and flexion but does not hold your horse's neck in position.

    *Your outside hand controls the amount of bend created with the inside hand, impulsion, tempo (speed of the gait you're in) and balance.
  7. CDA

    CDA Well-known Member

    I LURVE to do lateral work in walk, on the small figure of 8 :)

    shoulder in to the left...change to renver to the right :) THATS a hard one lol

    Traver to the left counter shoulder in to the right.. etc etc etc
  8. Diana

    Diana Gold Member

    My instructor in Wagga Wagga got me doing an exercise (walk or trot) where we went in a circle with a counterbend of the neck.

    It was good for Dave's suppleness I think.

    It started out as a square. So walk a straight line, use some outside leg to do a turn on the hindquarters to the next side, etc. Eventually it turns into a circle :)

    I hope that makes sense.
  9. peppi

    peppi Active Member

    This is a good little post...Ive printed it all off...I for one get very bored with circles and my horse is unmotivated in the arena

    good effort...any more for any more...I can try
  10. jodie

    jodie Well-known Member

    I love this exercise I do it with all my horses in walk and trot. Great for improving collection and flexibility!!!
  11. AnnieIvy

    AnnieIvy Well-known Member

    printed off as well :D

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