Day 7- Five of Your Favorite Flatwork Exercises
Since meeting my friend and trainer Anne a little over two years ago, I’ve grown to appreciate flatwork. I used to do it grudgingly and quickly, as a necessary evil to be performed before jumping. These days, I spend most days riding doing some type of flatwork. That’s not really a tribute to my maturity- it’s more a tribute to Anne’s ability to make flatwork interesting and fun.
Here are my very favorite flatwork exercises:
- Spiral in/spiral out– I’m pretty sure I do this on every horse I ride, even the old, sometimes cranky horses at work. I start in a 25 or 20-meter circle and slowly make the circle smaller by asking the horse to move laterally off my leg. When the circle is about 10-meters, I begin to expand the circle outward until it’s back to its original size. I find this exercise useful at any gate to get a horse bending and supple (and to help teach greenies lateral movement).
- Follow the leader– When you’re riding with a friend, it’s easy to get caught up doing one of two things: chatting while walking around the arena on a loose rein, or focusing solely on your horse and ignoring your friend. Anne and I play follow the leader (especially with Colter) often- she and Atut will lead me and my mount around the arena, through circles and serpentines and changes of direction. Then we switch. We still get to talk to one another, but it keeps our horses doing something useful.
- Down the centerline– I’m not sure if this counts as a flatwork exercise, really, but I like to practice straight lines away from the rail (center line, quarter line, I’m not picky). With very green horses, I like it because you can ask them to canter without worrying about what lead they pick up and simply reward the forward movement (and turn in the appropriate direction). With more advanced horses, I like to use it to work on straightness without the visual aid of a rail.
- Simon says- I promise I haven’t gotten this post mixed up with one on therapeutic riding! If you’re riding with a friend (can you tell Anne and I ride together a lot?), try playing Simon Says. Have them call out a movement or transition to you. Typically, Anne is perched on Atut in the center of the arena, calling things like “…And turn left! …And canter! …And walk! …And turn right!” I love this exercise because it keeps me on my toes and prevents me from doing the same old thing every time I ride.
- Cloverleaf (with or without ground poles)– Think of this exercise as two capital letter Bs, back to back. This is a great exercise to work on bending, quick changes of direction, and flying lead changes.Ground poles can be added toward the center of the exercise (especially when practicing flying lead changes.)