Inspired by the900facebookpony’s post on her favorite riding exercises, I decided to follow suit and write about what my favorite exercises are.
For starters, I really enjoy incorporating going forward and back on a circle, in either trot or canter (although it also works in the walk). I integrate collected, working, and extended gaits in this exercise. Typically, I start in a working gait, and then ask Hope to collect for just a few strides, I then immediately send her forward again into either a working or extended gait. Then, I ask her to collect again, and repeat. I find this exercise really useful for getting Hope to rock back on her haunches and to really start using and swinging through her back. I like to do it on a circle because it tends to keep the exercise more controlled, plus, I can then really engage her inside hind leg. Although, I have also done this exercise going along the rail of the arena, but I don’t find it quite as effective.
Another exercise that I enjoy, is a 3 loop serpentine in canter without flying changes (so the center loop is in counter canter). As a former jumper, Hope has a strong dislike for counter canter. For the longest time, counter canter was practically impossible for us to do, but after almost two years of training and experimenting with different exercises, we can finally counter canter. This exercise was one of the most helpful for us in developing the counter canter. Since Hope has a long and somewhat weaker back, I like using counter canter to build her strength, balance, and suppleness.
Recently, in the middle counter canter loop, I have started asking for a bit of travers on the suggestion of my coach (for example, on the right lead, I would ask for right travers). This has really helped with our canter pirouettes. This exercise seems to help strengthen Hope’s hind-end and rock her onto her hocks to improve her balance. We’ll start out with the 3 loop serpentine without flying changes, and then come across the diagonal into a pirouette. This exercise has really helped Hope get the understanding of coming around her haunches in the pirouettes, and to not just leave her haunches trailing behind her.
I also find riding canter pirouettes on a square to be a useful exercise. Basically, it’s exactly how it sounds. I ride a square in the canter, and in each corner I ask for a 1/4 turn of a pirouette. Right before the corner, I collect Hope for a couple of strides, and then ask for the pirouette. After that, I send her forward, and then repeat the exercise in the next corner. Sometimes, if we aren’t organized enough to do a pirouette by the time we’ve reached the next corner, I just skip that one and move onto the following corner.
One of my most favorite exercises, my crown jewel, is doing shoulder-in to halfpass to shoulder-in. I start the exercise in shoulder-in for a few strides, and then move into halfpass for a few strides, and then finish on shoulder-in. I like to experiment with asking for Hope to really collect in the shoulder-in, maintain her current pace and rhythm, or to also have more of a medium pace in the shoulder-in. This exercise really helps to prepare for the halfpass. The shoulder-in aids in establishing the correct bend, and it also helps me to maintain enough impulsion in the halfpass. This exercise works in all of the gaits, walk, trot, and canter. Of course, when first starting out it is immensely easier to start at the walk, and slowly move up from there.
These are my main exercises that I like to do. What are your favorite riding exercises?