I came up with the idea for this "segment" while riding over the weekend because it hit me that I really, really love flat work exercises. Granted, I'm a pretend Dressage Queen, so that kind of makes sense but I thought that since most of the blogs I follow are HJ/Eventer oriented maybe some of you would be interested in flatwork exercises? Obviously even the hunter jumpers do tons of flatwork, and I always love having new things to do, since the same old stuff gets boring. So we'll try it out this week and see how it goes.
This is hands down my favorite exercise for upward canter transitions. It is especially effective in horses that have trouble picking up the correct lead.
First up, we have a super high tech diagram of the exercise, which I will explain in greater detail:
|I should basically be a graphic designer.|
So now take a look at the next diagram (below). You'll see some awesome directional arrows, a star, and a blue arrow.
|It's not as cray as it looks.|
SO, the exercise begins at the orange star, on a 20ish meter circle to the left. You can do this exercise at a walk or a trot, and I usually do it at the trot. So you walk or trot your large circle to the left as normal until you get to the center of the ring, or the blue arrow. The first time you pass through this blue arrow you change from left to right bend, and ride a small circle or volte in the opposite direction (following the orange arrows). The circle is ridden in preparation for your upward canter transition. As you come back to the blue arrow you change from right bend to left, and once the bend is developed, ask for canter. I typically canter a full 20m circle and when I get back to the center of the ring (or the blue arrow) come down to a trot.
At this point, if Molls is unbalanced or rushing, I bring her all the way down to a halt. (Add a come to Jesus moment here if necessary).
You are then going to repeat the exercise in the other direction.
So at this point you should be at the blue arrow either trotting from your downward transition, or at a halt because you had to
Why this exercise works:
So I said this exercise was great for upward canter transitions, and here is why. When you ride a small circle such as a volte, the majority of your horses weight goes to their inside hind leg. This makes sense because this is the leg that is doing the LEAST movement during a small circle, and you can think of your horse as traveling around this leg. As a result, this leg becomes "loaded" with the majority of the horse's weight.
So for example, lets say your riding a volte to the right. The majority of your horses weight is now on their inside hind, or right hind leg. This is critical because when your horse picks up left lead canter, they are going to begin the transition with their.... you guessed it, right hind leg. By loading the right hind with the horse's weight and energy, then quickly changing the bend, the right leg remains loaded and when you ask for canter they are set up perfectly for an upward transition.
Why I like this exercise:
I like this exercise for a few different reasons, and not just because it works so well for horses who struggle with a particular lead. As a matter of fact, Mollie hardly EVER picks up the wrong lead and never has. I do like it because Mollie is very forehand heavy, as are most horses. This exercise really puts her weight on her hind end and as a result we usually end up with a lighter canter.
Mollie is also well known for her anticipation and rushing tactics (her favorite things). Because this exercise has many direction/weight/gait changes it keeps her on her toes and she hasn't figured it out quite yet. This pattern also slows her down quite a bit and doesn't allow for rushing into her canter because it's near impossible to quickly trot a volte (read: if your volte is fast, do it again). Since the volte is slow and collected and she's set up so nicely for canter it eliminates the desire to rush into it.
So there you have it :) I hope this is helpful to at least someone, and I'd love to hear if there are any exercises anyone would like me to go over. Or if you have a certain problem you'd like to tackle with your horse please let me know! I'm not a trainer by any means but I'm a total flatwork junkie :)