Sometimes it can be monotonous doing circle after circle in the arena, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not push you and your horse’s ability.
I developed this exercise today with a cob who tends to lose speed and energy when turns are involved. It’s like the handbrake has gone on. We’ve used straight sides and diagonals to build the quality of the trot, and corners and half twenty metre circles to teach him to move from the outside aids and to maintain propulsion. He’s getting there so I introduced three loop serpentines.
He really struggled with a smaller turns so I needed to go back half a step. Full circles of a smaller diameter would help as there isn’t a change of bend to worry about.
I also wanted to work this cob off the track a bit more to help establish the outside leg and his respect for it, so I combined the two on this chain exercise.
Starting from A, ride a 13-15m circle, remembering to stay at least 2.5m away from the long sides. Ride the circle until the horse feels balanced, relaxed and is bending correctly around the inside leg. Then when you cross the centre line between D and X, change the bend and ride a 13-15m circle around X. When this circle is established, ride another changed of bend between X and G to ride a circle at C.
If you’re lucky enough to have a 60m long arena then each circle will be 15m in diameter, but in a 40m long arena each circle will need to be 13m, with a metre spare for wiggle room.
The benefit of this exercise is that you aren’t rushing to change the bend, so you can afford to be picky about the quality of each circle. You can aim to ride one whole circle at each point, and then only a half circle when the horse finds this easy.
It can be made harder by slowly reducing the size of the circles and gravitating away from A and C, so they are ten metres, and then an extra circle can be added in.
I revisited the three loop serpentine with this cob after working through the above exercise and he definitely found it easier to keep his trot around the turns and changes of bend.
Riding the smaller circles will improve his suppleness and that will help him maintain his balance and rhythm on turns so that his trot doesn’t deteriorate. Using just the middle of the school also checks your aids and eye for a round circle, as well as teaching your horse to be independent from the fenceline and obey your outside leg.