Thursday, June 1, 2017

Blog Hop: Favorite Exercises

Amanda at the $900 Facebook Pony asks, What are your favorite exercises? Flatwork or jumping or both!


Looping and bending - I start all of my workouts with this exercise first at the walk and then at the trot. I start with minimal contact and slowly increase as the horse warms up. Shallow loops and bends become tighter as time passes. If I'm warming up for jumping, I'll make these loops and bends around my jumps. If I'm in an open area or in my demarcated dressage arena I just freestyle my loops and bends to match my headspace that day.

Walk to trot to walk - Often, after the looping and bending, I will dive right into this exercise. My only goal is to keep the horse at a steady rhythm and have prompt transitions. This exercise almost always helps Griffin settle into a good working frame of mind. It helps him to be more steady in the contact and through behind.

Rapid transitions - This is my absolute go-to on a day when my horse is distracted from our work. I will often initiate it after the above looping and bending if I sense a simple walk to trot back and forth won't do it. If we hit a really sticky spot halfway through a workout, I'll also dive right into this exercise because it never fails to get the horse's mind back on me and the task at hand.

Walk to trot to halt to canter to walk to halt to back to canter to walk to trot, etc. Fast changes after so many random strides or steps of my choice in each gait not only keep my horse's mind on me, they also help them to use their hind end better if I string a lot of transitions from a back/halt/walk to a canter or trot.

Griffin and Q both excel with this exercise after three or four transitions; they absolutely will NAIL a rein-back to canter transition. For Q especially - a quick-thinking, reactive horse - this exercise is perfect. She has never spooked during this exercise because it's about the only time I can keep her brain 110% occupied. Both horses become so tuned into me that it takes only a whisper of an aid to get a response. It's hard work, too!


When Griffin was learning the jumping game, we'd do a lot of ground poles and grid work. While I absolutely see a huge benefit in those exercises still, we haven't had them setup for several months. I don't always have time to reset my jumps (I ride alone all the time), so I try to find versatile arrangements that I can utilize in many ways.

Lately it's been this:

Which for a long time we rode like this (yes, we do tight as HELL rollbacks and Griffin is a BOSS at them):

But lately we're riding like this:

And while we warm-up, I'll string series of 2 to 3 jumps together, then go back to looping and bending or rapid transitions, then go back to jumping. Once I've got a game horse, we start stringing more and more together until we have the full course. And if we struggle with any one part during a certain day, we'll ride that sequence as a drill or I'll craft up another micro sequence to build into the trouble spot.

I love this set up so much! And it is only recently becoming "boring" to me and Griffin. However, I really need to change it up soon because Griffin has it memorized!


  1. Those sound like great exercises. My favorite to do at the moment is creating a square space of travel and then using the long side to extend her trot and short strides to collect all with just using my core and posting speed and not changing the pressure on my reins at all. Not only does it force me to really ride with my entire body, but it focuses Gem instantly on me. Plus it is just really neat to feel her move out and come back in with just my core as an aid.

    1. I love that you're finding tools to get her to focus on you and the job instead of being a spazz. It's so awesome.

  2. This is a great way to learn new exercises.

  3. i kinda miss setting up my own courses and exercises - we used to do it a lot at isabel's barn but it's not really super feasible at the new barn..

    1. That's a bummer! Part of me wishes I had others to set stuff up that I could pirate haha, never had the luxury!