In a group riding lesson, you either ride together as a ride – one behind the other, following a lead file (lead rider) – or in open order, which means you’re riding independently from everyone else. Within reason, you can choose where you ride and what pace to be in. If everyone knows what to do in open order, it’s a great way to get your pony working independently and get the most out of your lesson.
Rules of the school
Always stick to the rules of the school. Here are the most important ones…
Pass left-to-left. This means that when you ride past another rider in the same pace, you should always pass with them on your left, so that your left hand is next to theirs. For example, if you’re on the left rein you’ll stay on the outside track. This is the general rule you should use when you’re riding on the outside track, turning, circling or changing the rein.
Faster paces take priority on the outside track. This is a glitch in the left-to-left rule – if you’re cantering towards another rider who’s trotting, they should move onto the inside track to allow you past, even if it means passing right-to-right. This is the same whether you’re riding on the same rein or not.
Avoid cutting up other riders up (riding across their path in front of them) because you might cause a crash. Plan the line you’re going to ride and try to keep away from everyone else in your group.
Did you know? Riding in the warm-up arena at a show is just like riding in open order, so passing left-to-left applies then, too.
TOP TIP – Leave plenty of space between you and the pony you’re passing.
Making it work
Having rules is all well and good, but you need to know how to put them into practice, too. Here are some tips to help you out…
Be aware of other riders and where they’re at all times. Keep looking around to see where other riders are and where they’re likely to go. You can help them out, too, by calling out where and when you’re going to make a transition or ride a shape, or if you’re coming up behind them and they haven’t noticed.
Move onto the inside track if you’re going to make a downwards transition to walk or halt. Keep an eye on the other riders around you because they may be going faster than you. If you’re halting, avoid busy places such as the centre line or in the way of a 20m circle.
Circle away to find a better space – the bigger, the better. If you’re catching someone up, circle away as soon as you can, or your pony might think it’s a better idea to follow them, instead. It doesn’t always need to be a large circle – you might find a 10m circle is enough, but knowing how big takes practice.
Time to warm up
If you’re going to ride any part of your lesson in open order, it’s likely to be the warm-up. This means you can take control of warming up your pony, get to know him and focus his attention on you – he might have different warm-up needs to the others in your group, too.
Use this mini warm-up plan to get you started…
- Begin in walk, riding lots of turns, circles and walk-halt transitions, making sure you come off the track to do so. You should stay in walk for at least five mins, but some (particularly older) ponies need longer.
- Do the same in trot – ride lots of turns, circles and transitions, making sure you do equal amounts on each rein.
- Ride some canter transitions, making sure you have plenty of space and let everyone know when and where you’re going to canter.
- Now you’re all ready for your lesson!