Have you been feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to finding exercises to ride with your horse in the arena? Have you found yourself creating more and more complex grids, and then struggling to make them work for you and your horse? If so, here is a simple exercise you can use this month to help minimize the overwhelm and get you in the saddle and making progress.
All you need are 3 or 5 ground poles and a fairly flat piece of land to ride on if you don’t have access to an arena.
The key to this exercise is intention regarding what you are doing and attention to how well things are going. Attention to detail is important when working on simple. It is what makes simple really work and help propel you and your horse forward in your training.
Lay Out the Poles for the Exercise
To get set up, find the quarter line of your arena. If you are working in an open space, such as a paddock or field, simply find a flat area with enough space to lay the poles out in a straight line.
I have created a FREE PLAN HERE for you to download and bring to the barn. It will show you how to layout the poles, and give you tips and pointers on how to use the exercises. I feel that this simple layout can benefit horses and riders of all levels. Again, it is simply a matter of choosing the intention and then paying attention in order to really get the most from each suggested exercise.
And if your arenas or fields are out of bounds, this exercise can also be ridden on a driveway…
If the weather conditions or lack of light is making riding difficult. This same exercise can be set up on a flat driveway, lane, or car parking area. Obviously, safety comes first, so the onus is on you to choose wisely! The key to the exercise working is the ability to have about 2 meters on either side of each pole that you can move around.
You do not need a massive amount of width when riding this exercise. It is rather the length that is important to consider when laying the poles down.
Again, you can download the PDF diagram HERE which gives you a visual explanation for how to lay your poles out.
Exercise 1 Halt at Each Pole – 4 Different Filters
This first exercise seems so simple, and yet so much can be both learned and developed when working into and out of halt. The first way to ride this exercise is to simply walk on a straight track, parallel to the poles. At each pole, ask for a halt. Remain stationary for 3 to 5 seconds. Then walk on again.
I am going to give you 4 different approaches or filters you can use when riding this exercise.
Yes, it is one exercise however, there are so many different ways you can focus or set different intentions for it that will make it stretch so much further for you and your horse.
- A Square Halt
- A Straight Halt
- An Engaged Halt
- A Well Ridden Halt
Aim to improve the quality of the halt each time you ride it. And use each of the four ‘filters’ below to help you really set a specific intention around each halt that you ride.
Filter 1:- A Square Halt
I’ve noticed that so many riders work on this religiously for a session or two. And then, as soon as they leave the arena, it is forgotten! Use this simple exercise to begin to put ’square halt’ onto autopilot for both yourself and your horse
Start with the front hooves. If there was an imaginary straight line on the ground where you halt, would your horse have both front hooves tipping it? Hooves are straight. Shoulders are straight… Not one hoof in front of the other or looking like he’s ‘mid-step’.
Once you can consistently halt square in front each time, turn your attention to the hind hooves. This time, instead of an imaginary line on the ground, imagine a rectangular box shape drawn on the ground.
A square halt will have a hoof in each corner of the imaginary rectangle.
You will notice that in order to achieve the consistent square halt, you will have to work on balancing your aids. It is using the combination of your horse’s energy and your energy that achieves consistently square halts. And that is key, consistency! Remember, we’re not looking for ‘lucky’, once-off, square halts, but rather consistent planned ones.
Filter 2:- A Straight Halt
From here, you can use the poles to help you assess the straightness of the halt. Again, ride a track parallel to the poles and halt at each pole as you ride alongside it. As you prepare for and ride each halt, notice how straight your horse is.
Is your horse truly parallel to the pole as he enters the halt and then inside of the halt itself?
From here, you can also begin noticing if he remains straight as he transitions out of the halt. Think about how you can use your aids to encourage him to become more straight with each halt you ride. And remember, your aids are there to ask your horse to remain straight. They are not really there to ‘keep’ your horse straight.
Filter 3:- An Engaged Halt
Notice, and then work on actively improving, the engagement in each halt that you ride.
Pay attention to the consistency of the tension as you prepare for and then move into the halt. This is a combination of relaxation and rhythm. Can he remain supple through his body so that he is able to easily remain smooth and the transitions in and out of the movement?
And, from there, Is your horse truly carrying himself as he stands in the halt itself?
Or is he ‘hanging out’ in the halt?! Work on improving the consistency of the relaxation, the rhythm, and the contact of each halt. An engaged halt looks and feels very different from a halt that a horse has been either hauled into or fallen into.
Be intentional about the energy that is being contained within each halt you ride.
Filter 4:- A Well Ridden Halt
Finally, turn the attention to yourself and what you are doing in the saddle. Often we can get so caught up with what our horses are doing in the saddle that we forget to apply all the above to ourselves!
How aligned are you as you prepare and then move into each halt?
Notice your posture and where your energy is potentially ‘falling out’ or ‘falling in’. Yes, those terms are not just for horses. If you are allowing a shoulder to duck or a seat bone to slide, you can also fall out or in!
Notice the consistency of the tension you are applying on the reins. And your legs and seat. How balanced, coordinated, and smooth are your aids? How can you improve your application of each aid in order to produce a clearer direction for your horse?
Keep It Simple
Okay, so I have given you 4 different ways you can ride the same exercise with your horse. Simply riding a track parallel to a line of poles and halting at each pole.
Coming up with different exercises does not have to be difficult. It simply requires a little work before you get into the saddle. A little ‘up front’ effort on your part.
Now, what if I told you that there is at least another 4 exercises you can ride, using the same pole layout? Yes, the same 3 or 5 poles, in the same formation or positions.
You can get the second one completely free, with step by step guidance on how to do it, when you download the PDF guide to this exercise HERE
Additional Links to Help You:-
- FREE Download:- 1 Exercise Multiple Ways
- Planning Your Rides – Part 1 Fun
- Planning Your Rides – Part 2 Partnership
- Planning Your Rides – Part 3 Training
- Lunging for Riding
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Stop Wasting and Start Investing Time with Your Horse
- What’s Your Number in Your Riding?
- A Plan for 7 Days in Your Riding
- Plan Your Ride with These Simple Steps
- Transform the Next 12 Weeks in Your Riding
- Connection; the Online Membership for Equestrians