Focused drills can really move you and your horse toward mastery. And when the exercises are straightforward and easy to follow, they can also be a lot of fun to ride.
You’ll find one such drill in Horse&Rider’s November 2018 issue—trainer Nancy Cahill’s crazy-cone exercise in the Confident Rider department. The drill involves winding your horse in and around cones set 10 feet apart. Because it requires serious bending and quick changes of direction, it supples your horse and makes him more responsive to your cues.
Now, here’s a sampling of other go-to riding exercises from past issues of H&R. To boost your ongoing learning, they (and countless others) are available by searching on this Web site, but I’ve gathered them together here with hotlinks for your convenience.
Check them out and see how they can improve your performance in the saddle—and your horse’s performance under it.
• Four-pole palooza. This set of six exercises is done with just four plain, 12-foot ground poles. Your coach is Arizona trainer Deanna Searles, and her drills will boost your and your horse’s focus and precision, plus improve your horse’s quality of movement and “handle” (guidability).
• Get straight. Riding in a precisely straight line is surprisingly difficult, yet it’s essential for the best scores in pattern classes. Plus the resulting control over your horse’s body is handy to have out on the trail. Here, Washington state trainer LaRae Powell gives you a handy exercise to achieve straightness using just a few orange cones.
• Be square. Texas-based trainers Will and Elizabeth Knabenshue love this exercise--maneuvering around four cones set in a square--because it enables them to evaluate a rider’s skill level and attention to detail. As it improves your horsemanship, this drill will also help you learn how to plan for each step of a pattern.
• A natural ‘slow.’ This “passenger exercise” trains your horse to maintain a relaxed lope of his own accord as you learn to trust and avoid micromanaging. Your coach in this video is Colorado-based clinician Madison Shambaugh.
• Counter-flex. Riding a counter-bend circle is a challenging exercise, but the reward is control of your horse’s shoulders—critical for maneuvers in all sorts of events. Trainer Brad Barkemeyer of Arizona demonstrates in this video, part of H&R’s #RideWithBrad series.
• Turn practice. In this short, concise video, Arizona trainer Al Dunning shares techniques for schooling the turnaround. For more of this master horseman’s video lessons, click the #RideWithAl link below the frame.