This week was all about flatwork and poles. I could tell the horse I was riding, Rebel, was a solid school horse and knew his job, but he was not used to doing a lot of lateral work. He was very quick and strong but surprisingly super responsive to my body movements and whoa. Due to his tendency to be a bit strong, we decided to do a couple exercises to work on collection.
Exercise 1: Focus on Straightness, Collection, and Lateral Movements
To start, set up a line of poles on the quarter line. Depending on your preference, you can have a line of trot poles or set up 3 canter poles and just trot over them. The goal is to ride very straight over the line in posting trot, and once you are over the last pole, sit to collect the trot and leg yield to the middle of the arena.
Once you reach the center line, make a tight turn back toward the poles and straighten back out to trot over the poles in the reverse direction. As you turn, it’s important to keep both legs closed to keep the horse stepping under himself and maintaining a trot without breaking to a walk.
Completing this can help with collection since it requires the horse and rider to transition from a regular trot to a collected trot, and step up under himself to maintain balance through the tight turn back to the poles. As a bonus, I love incorporating straightness combined with lateral movements and turns.
After we warmed up at the trot and got our collection down, we moved on to canter. I highly recommend the following exercise for horses that are a bit forward, since it really requires them to use their hind end, carry themselves through a tighter turn, and is great practice for the rider to keep a supportive position with her seat and hands.
Exercise 2: Canter Figure Eight
We set up a small flower box in the center of the arena, and used that as the center of the figure eight. The idea is to pick up the canter, jump over it, change direction and then come at it again on the opposite lead. With this pattern, you will always jump it from the same direction, but on alternating leads each time. You may decide to substitute the small flower box with a ground pole, or even a fence depending on your goals and your mount.
On our first attempt, of course we stopped short at the flowers (because they were terrifying) and just had to walk over it. On our second attempt, we approached the flowers from a bit of an angle and were having a hard time staying collected and together. Next, I tried squaring off the turns toward the jump so I was taking a more direct approach, and this worked much more successfully with this horse. I liked this better – it required me to give a supporting half halt through the turn, sit up a bit taller and keep my hands a bit higher to support him, which resulted in a much better approach and more balanced ride before and after the fence. After the second time with this approach, he even picked up the correct lead without me asking 🙂
This was a fun exercise since it made both of us to think about what we were doing, and get into a rhythm at the canter while staying more collected throughout. I found this to be helpful Rebel since he definitely does not hesitate to pick up the speed!
I plan to incorporate these types of exercises into my regular schooling to work on collection and balance. What types of exercises do you like to work on for collection?