Encourage your horse to round his back, engage his abdominal muscles and develop suppleness and straightness using dressage rider Samantha Brown's three simple exercises.
This exercise encourages your horse to trot in a consistent rhythm and teaches you to ride straight and in balance.
SET IT UP: In a straight line (like a ladder), lay out five trot poles (four heel-to-toe steps apart) across the centre of your school. Leave a four-stride gap then lay out another five trot poles (four heel-to-toe steps apart).
- Begin on the left rein in trot and start to ride a figure of eight
- As you make your change of rein on your figure of eight, you'll turn onto your line of poles - ride straight over them.
- Turn onto the right rein and repeat going the other way.
REPEAT: Twice on each rein, or until your horse happily goes over the poles in both directions. If you're a beginner, finish with this exercise. If you feel ready to progress, move on to exercise 2.
This exercise uses raised poles, which encourage your horse to use his back and core. In time, you'll notice him develop suppleness.
If he struggles with head carriage, this exercise will also help him lift his forehand.
SET IT UP: Leave your poles in the ladder shape used in exercise 1. The layout of this exercise will change with each repetition - ask someone to help so that you can stay mounted. Start by raising the end of the pole that's furthest from you. Raise it by about 1ft, then follow the steps below.
- Trot your horse straight down the ladder of poles. Remember to sit tall and maintain a consistent rhythm.
- Before coming around again, raise the opposite end of the next pole in.
REPEAT: Until all poles are lifted at one end and look like a raised zigzag.
To complete this trio of exercises, ask your helper to lower each raised pole end one by one (a reverse of exercise 2), until all are flat on the ground.
This exercise will really show you how much stamina your horse has. If he begins to flag and knock the poles, lower them all back to the ground and trot over them on the flat once to finish.