How to Have a Productive Ride
Whenever I first ride my horse, Rory, I always like to start with circles. Whether it's at the walk, trot, or canter, circles help your horses pay attention and engage themselves. Whenever I am doing circles, I like to start by circling half of the ring, and slowly make my circles smaller.
After a few circles here and there, I LOVE to start figure 8s. At the trot, I like to do smaller figure 8s, engaging his body through the corners at first and then engaging him completely a few figure 8s later. At the canter, I like to do full ring figure 8s and counter cantering or making him do a simple change. I like to do simple changes because it prepares us for flying changes in a lesson, keeps him focused on me, and it forces me to plan my turn and look where I’m going.
Transitions are HUGE for me! I love practicing transitions especially when I’m in need of a good exercise. For example, going from trot to canter to walk to trot (try to do that on one side of the ring!) Transitions are important for flat classes, transitioning in your circle (for hunter and equitation riders), and other classes too! Whenever I am flatting, you obviously do the normal trot, canter, and walk, but what about changing it up a little and challenging your self?!?
Halt to canter
Trot to walk to canter
Counter canter -> simple change -> correct canter -> simple change (trying to see how many changes you can cleanly get on the long side of the ring!)
Finally, my favorite thing to do when flatting is poles. I love setting up mini-courses with poles and jumping over them. I normally will take courses that I did in my previous lessons or shows that were challenging for me and set them up in poles! My favorite things to practice with poles are:
Finding the right distance (or riding well to a pole)
Pretending I’m in a jumping class and creating a course to execute
Long runs to poles
You’ll all hate me for saying this, but no stirrups is my all-time favorite thing to do when hacking my horse. If I don’t quite know what to do when flatting, I instantly revert to going no stirrups. Not only does no stirrups improve your strength, it forces you to balance yourself and use your leg muscles. Whenever I go no stirrups, I go all in. I always post at the trot and lighten my seat at the canter, helping me build up my muscles and making me sweat! I also like to go no stirrups while doing the exercises I have listed above, which makes them even more challenging.
TFE Ambassador Olivia Gannett