By Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

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Jennifer Paulson
Credit: Jennifer Paulson
Make practice time in your arena fun and productive by riding specific patterns as you work on problem areas.

Are you arena-smart? Riding arenas are good for more than just going ’round and ’round. You can use your time there to solve a range of riding problems—and have fun while you’re at it.

         How? By targeting one specific objective, then seeing how well you can achieve it as you ride various figures, or patterns. Figure 8s and serpentines are two of the most common figures; I’ll have many more examples for you in a moment.

         Let’s say your horse has difficulty maintaining a steady pace at the jog. Rather than striving for regularity as you jog around the perimeter of your arena, you’ll ride a series of patterns while focusing on keeping his jogging even and consistent.

         Or perhaps you have a troublesome equitation issue—such as uneven weight in your stirrups. With this approach, you’ll ride two or three patterns repetitively while concentrating on achieving just that one goal—sinking your weight down evenly into both heels.

         What makes this fun is the variety of patterns you can ride as you work on your goals. At the link, you’ll find (in addition to the traditional 8 and a variety of serpentines) a spiral, a loopy B, an off-the-rail rectangle, a squared-off circle, and more—10 in all.

         To progress, work on just the one objective, using a variety of patterns over time—changing it up every day--until you feel you’ve begun to master that one objective. Then add a new objective, and work on it while holding on to your prior achievement, which by now is becoming habitual.

         At times, you may need to drop back to focusing on just one objective, if it’s a particularly challenging one for you or your horse. But then, once you begin to master it, go on to add the earlier ones back into the mix.

         It’s a fresh, fun way to work on weak spots. (And, you don’t even need an actual arena to try it—just a large-enough level area with good footing.)

         Don’t forget to thoroughly warm your horse up first and “get the fresh out” if need be before you begin asking for serious work. Then get going with the fun figures—and watch your horsemanship bloom.