In the June issue of PONY mag, I brought you some of my fave schooling exercises that I like to ride on my young horse, Joey. But, if you’d like to step things up a notch, here are some fun ways you can make the exercises a little more challenging.
1. In the loop
Ride 5m shallow loops down each long side of the arena to help introduce your pony to bending his body gradually.
Up the challenge
If you pony’s finding 5m shallow loops easy in walk and trot, you can make things a little trickier by asking him for a 10m shallow loop instead. This means you need to ride all the way to X before making your turn back to the track. You’ll find this shape in some dressage tests at novice level, so it’s a good idea to get some practise in now!
You can also ride a 5m shallow loop in canter. This is a really good way to work on your pony’s canter because it’ll encourage him to bring his legs underneath him so he becomes straighter. To ride it, pick up canter large and, when you ride out of the corner, press with your inside leg to ask him to move towards the middle of the school, keeping your outside leg slightly behind the girth to keep his body straight. Ask your pony to bend around your inside leg and turn your body slightly to the inside, too. Then, when you reach the centre point, keep your position the same, but nudge with your outside leg and sit a little deeper with your outside seat bone to ask him to move back to the track. Stick to 5m shallow loops in canter until he gets the idea of moving left and right in a faster pace.
2. Terrific teardrops
Ride a half 15m circle on the short side of the arena, then head in a diagonal line back to the track. This is a fun way to change the rein and helps keep your pony supple, too.
Up the challenge
You can ask your pony for more bend by riding a smaller teardrop shape. Do this by riding a half 10m circle before heading back to the track.
You can also use teardrops to introduce your pony to the idea of counter-counter. This is when your pony canters with his outside foreleg leading, instead of his inside. You won’t find this move until the higher levels of dressage, but you will find canter teardrops in some novice level tests. To ride it, you need to canter large then make your 15m half circle and ride straight back to the track. Then canter on the track for a few strides with the outside leg leading, before asking your pony to come back to trot. Your pony may find this tricky at first, so keep straight on the track, and return to trot before you reach the corner.
3. Round in circles
In walk, spiral down from a 20m circle to a 10m circle and back again. This gives every part of your pony’s body a workout, and encourages him to listen to your aids, too.
Up the challenge
When your pony’s feeling a little more flexible, you can have a go at the exercise in trot. And, when you spiral back out on a 20m circle, ask him to pick up canter. This is a great exercise for ponies who tend to run into canter because spiraling first will help set him up so his body has the right amount of bend, ready for the transition. Spiraling out will also encourage him work from leg to hand, and have more weight in the outside rein so that he’ll be better balanced through the transition.
You can do the same to come back to trot, too, because circling smaller helps you keep your pony together so he doesn’t fall into trot or stick his head up during the transition. You could also use it to practice your canter to walk transitions, which takes time to perfect. Don’t forget to use your voice when you ask him to slow down, too.
Make sure you check out June PONY mag to find out more on how to ride the basic versions of the exercises – they’re ideal for young or green horses, like Joey! However, it’s always great to incorporate suppleness into your schooling sessions, no matter the level of your pony. Happy schooling!