Serpentines; Making Them Work for You in Your Schooling

Serpentines; Making Them Work for You in Your Schooling

Serpentines; Making Them Work for You in Your Schooling

Serpentines, Making them work for you in your schooling

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Understand the difference between controlling versus influencing
  • How markers can help you become more mindful throughout the movement
  • Why I suggest slowing things down initially
  • How to begin working on improving your serpentines today

Serpentines really are the exercise or movement that ‘have it all’ when it comes to working or schooling your horse in the arena.  Suppleness, straightness, rhythm, relaxation and a whole host of other principles in between.

Yet, so many riders fail to make the most out of their serpentines and never really get further than ‘flying’ around the loops full speed ahead!  In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I am going to give you a few ideas on how you can get the most out of this basic schooling movement in your riding.

Deciding on Which Serpentine Suits You

First of all, let’s quickly chat about what a serpentine is and deciding how many loops is right for you and your horse.  The serpentine is, simply put, like riding the letter s in the arena, but with extra loops added in where necessary.

The amount of loops in your serpentine will be determined by the size of your arena and how developed both you and your horse are in your training.

The more loops in your serpentines, the more suppleness will be required to maintain the forwardness and the ‘shape’ of the movement over all.

Most riders start out with a traditional 3 looped serpentine.  Any odd number of loops will see you finish the movement on the same rein you begun.  An even number or loops will have you change rein when you complete the movement.

Controlling Versus Influencing in the Saddle

Many riders have the mindset that they must ‘control’ their horse.  Control every movement, every step.  The rhythm, the forwardness… Even down to how their horse moves and uses his body.  If you are one of these ‘controlling’ riders, I’m afraid I’m going to have to burst your bubble…

The only thing you can control while riding is yourself.  You cannot control your horse.  However, by controlling yourself, you can learn to have more influence over your horse…  

One of the aims of correct training with your horse should be getting to the point where your horse takes responsibility for his own movements and actions.  You will ‘control’ yourself and he will control his self.

Controlling everything is exhausting and results in your focus being place on the wrong things when riding.  Holding your horse up with your inside leg.  Or creating a fixed or rigid ‘frame’ for your horse to work in and therefore removing all suppleness.

Correct Rather than Control

As you ride your serpentines over the coming weeks, think of asking your horse to do something and then allowing him to do it.  Don’t be the rider who is always looking over your horses shoulder waiting for him to make a mistake!

If he goes off track, or makes a ‘mistake’, yes, correct him – but then try to get out-of-the-way again and allow him to continue on.

This way, you are allowing your horse to begin thinking for himself and taking responsibility for his own actions.  Shifting your mindset around this topic is the is the beginning of working towards self carriage with your horse.

Using Markers to Help Your Accuracy

Very often when riders set out to ride a serpentine, they get a little off track with the true shape of the movement they want to ride.  It can end up looking more like a zig-zag rather than a series of equal bends connected by straight lines.

Before you ride your next serpentine, rather go out and mark the exact track that you want to ride.  The loops, the track as you cross the arena.  The shape, the sizes, the centre line. 

You can use anything at all, once it is safe, to mark out the path you want to ride on.  Tyres, cones, stones, poles, uprights.  My only concern with using poles or uprights is that sometimes the horse can ‘cling’ to them a little.

Slowing Down and Starting from Walk

Once you have your path marked out, I then suggest getting into the arena on your horse and begin working on riding the movement.  Start in walk.  Ride the movement a few times in the walk and begin being mindful to what is going on underneath you.

Serpentines have a lot of different moving parts as you ride through them and taking the time to notice each stride in walk will help you begin getting the most out of the exercise.

Notice where you begin, the middle of the short side of your arena.  Pay attention to how you transition between straight and flexed.  How well is your horse ‘staying on track’ through the exercise itself.

If there was a drone above you, taking a video, would your horses back, from tail to poll, be on the same track all the way through as the one you laid out?

Most riders think about transitions as going up and down between gaits or gears.  However, a transition is simply a change.  I am going to recommend that, as you ride through the serpentine, becoming really mindful on how you are transitioning between the loops.

Incorporating Serpentines into Your Schooling

From here, begin thinking about the best way you can ask  your horse to actually ride the serpentines and then getting out of his way and allowing him to do just that.  No leaning or shoving or holding things up.

It is common for riders to become a little too enthusiastic with your inside rein as you ride the basic serpentine…

Notice the suppleness and the bend.  Notice how your horse is coping with the transitions between loops and if you are truly helping him or hindering the process.

Once you have mastered the exercise in walk, I would then suggest taking things a step further by riding the exercise in trot.  Keep your focus on the ‘eye in the sky’ and how it would look if viewed from above.

Also make sure you are not ‘controlling’ everything, but rather setting things up and then allowing them to happen. 

There are so many other ways to add variations to your serpentines.  We have a whole collection of trainings inside of Daily Strides Premium themed around doing just this, which you can begin working on today when you join.

Happy Riding


Links mentioned in the episode:-


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