When Square Is Hip (And Improves Your Horsemanship)

Looking for an all-purpose ride-better exercise? Don’t miss “Work the Square,” the Private Lesson segment in the September 2016 issue of Horse&Rider, out now. Riding your horse around four cones set in a square sounds pretty basic, but it’s more challenging than you’d expect. And when you strive to do it with precision, you fine-tune both your horsemanship and your horse’s responsiveness to your cues.

Credit: Jennifer Paulson Cone work challenges you to be clear and consistent in your cueing. ‘Working the square’ will make you a better rider.

The article explains how to set four cones 15 to 30 paces apart to create a square. It then describes how to ride around the cones, keeping your horse straight in the approach to and depart from each cone.

I’ve talked before about the value of guiding your horse in specific figures. It’s a great way to organize the time you spend riding in your arena. You can find a variation of the square exercise plus a range of other excellent figure-riding exercises here.

From my own experience, one of the best things about the square exercise is the potential variety in how you ride those four cones. You can hug the square, for example, creating crisp corners by bending your horse around each cone.

Or you can use the square as a guide to help you ride a perfect circle. In this version, you strive to maintain the exact same distance from each cone as you pass it, plus create the same arc on each side of the square to guarantee that your circle is perfectly round.

Or you can split the difference, riding straight lines between cones and moderate curves around each one.

However you ride it, the key is to decide in advance what you’ll do, then follow through to the best of your ability, without letting your horse change the plan or drift off course. This challenges you to provide cueing that’s clear and consistent. So in addition to being just plain fun, square work really will help you become a better rider.

Think you’d like a little extra help to get it right? We’ve got you covered with the links below.


Ride a square corner.

Master the straight line.

Gain sideways control.

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