My Current Favorite Exercises
I am someone who tries to soak up as much information as possible in lessons/clinics in order to find ways to create a more productive hack. Especially recently, I have found my hacks to be unbelievably efficient, productive, and fun. Lux and I have never felt so in sync and motivated during our hacks. Today I’m going to share with you my top 5 exercises that have helped me have a more productive and beneficial ride.
I’ve talked about transitions a lot in the past, but after moving barns, my new trainer has emphasized the importance of strong and “forward” transitions. As he has described, forward does not mean “fast.” Instead, it promotes impulsion, which creates overall elasticity of your horse. If you want to read more about riding “forward,” check out this article (linked here). Lux is generally reluctant to go forward (I mean this in the nicest possible way, Luxy). He doesn’t automatically use his body correctly at all times. Therefore, I have been focusing on transitions to improve not only his impulsion and thinking but also to test the buttons and figure out which button exactly cues him for which transitions. The article I linked earlier goes into a fantastic explanation of transitions and how it increases impulsion.
Another thing my new trainer has highlighted is the range of a horse. As he stated, mathematically speaking, range is the difference between the lowest and highest value. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been focusing on Lux’s range and helping him get the best range possible for him and his striding. During my rides, I have been asking him to move forward off of my leg, and then slowly come back to either a working canter, trot, or walk or below the working pace, and then repeating the pattern. With this exercise Lux has become stronger not only physically, but also mentally.
Pole work has been suggested by my new trainer, my old trainer, and my EAP clinician. They recommended that I set up poles about 4 or 5 strides apart (bending line or straight) and canter through them, asking for a different pace/stride each time. For example, maybe take one out or add one in OR coming in with different paces and asking for the same striding within the line.
If you can, I like to create a mini course/pattern to practice exercises or patterns I have been struggling with. For example, a short turn to a bending line or a combination with a short 4 and a long 4 (or something along those lines).
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out! Although circles are probably one of the most basic flatwork exercises, they are definitely the most useful. Circles help improve strength, straightness (ironically enough), flexibility, and proper aid usage. Over the past couple of months, as I have incorporated more circles in my daily riding routine, Lux has been more capable of staying “straight” and between my aids.
Circles and serpentines promote similar outcomes: suppleness, flexibility, looseness, etc. I like to use serpentines as I practice my transitions to keep Lux’s attention solely on me. Especially when something is going on outside of the ring, I rely on serpentines to keep his mind with me inside the ring. Make sure that your horse is using their body correctly and not just dropping their hind end in the downward transition!
Although every horse is different, I am sure a variation of one of more of these exercises could be beneficial to your horse. I don’t use all five in every hack, however, I find by incorporating one of these exercises, I can either get his attention, help him loosen up, or test his aids. There are many other exercises to add to your routine (no stirrups, lateral work, etc.), but these are the five I have been focusing on most recently.