Horse Riding Exercises For The First Blocks Of The Training Pyramid
The best way to develop your horse’s balance, suppleness and athletic ability is by having a horse riding exercise plan for your daily rides.
To have the best success with improving your horse’s performance you have to make sure that you work on your riding skills as well! A balanced seat, along with an independent hand and leg are needed to effectively let your horse know what you want.
You also need to be able to use your aids (hands, legs, seat) at just the right moment to help your horse understand what you want him to do. Conflicting aids (for example, pulling back on the reins and kicking at the same time) also do not send a clear message to your horse.
I will post soon with some ideas of how you can work on your riding to help you communicate better with your equine partner. 🙂
The most basic way to develop rhythm in your horse is to realize that it is also connected to relaxation and tempo. Your horse needs to move willingly forward in a relaxed fashion.
Once you have mounted and allowed your horse to stretch and warm up his muscles at the walk you can very carefully pick up the reins and establish a soft feel of his mouth. You will want to hold the reins with your fingers closed and your thumbs as the highest point.
Hold the reins as if you were holding a baby bird…firmly enough so it can’t fly away, yet softly enough not to hurt it. The reason you need to be soft and careful as you pick up the reins is so that your horse remains relaxed and in balance, with a clear, four beat walk.
The right tempo for the walk is neither slow nor hurried. You will want to have warmed up in both directions before you pick up your reins.
If your horse remains relaxed when contact (your soft feel of his mouth) is established, you are ready to trot.
Quietly ask your horse to trot, maintaining the same soft feel. You want your horse to trot freely forward.
Now you want to work on feeling that your trot keeps the same tempo, neither getting quicker or slower as you trot your corners and straight sides. Think of having a metronome or clock in your head ticking off a steady rhythm.
Riding to some music that has a steady beat is also a good way to help you establish a rhythm.
You can focus on using your posting to influence your horse’s trot. To increase your tempo post a little faster, to slow it just slow your posting a bit.
You should also experiment by posting a little bigger (higher) to lengthen your horse’s stride, and lower to shorten it. Lengthening and shortening stride while maintaining the same rhythm and tempo is an excellent exercise. These “transitions within the gait” are a wonderful exercise for increasing strength in your horse’s hindquarters and keeping him focused on you, his rider.
Transitions between gaits (carefully planned and prepared for) are another excellent exercise. Use half halts for preparing your horse to do a transition, either up or down, and gradually work towards making your seat your primary transition aid.
At first, work on smooth, prompt walk-trot transitions. You want to make sure your horse steps forward and under his body with his hind legs in BOTH the upward and downward transitions, so don’t make the mistake of dropping your leg off in your down transitions!
Transitions on a circle are another nice variation to help prevent boredom and introduce bending. They also help a young or nervous horse by encouraging relaxation and focus.
I think I’ll save the rest for the next “riding” post! I tend to go on too long sometimes, and that will also give you a chance to practice this first set of horse riding exercises.
Next time I’ll talk about using turns, corners and circles as riding exercises, and also some combinations and patterns that combine transitions and bending.
I just love working on all of these things when I’m riding. Thinking and writing about horse riding exercises reminds me what I want to work on when I go out to ride. I’d love to hear about your favorite exercises too!