Blog Hop: Favorite Exercises

I was really proud of myself on Friday as I started my pre jump session warmup. I’d spent half an hour moving my jumps around and setting up something that gave me a lot of options for coursework but also still left me the option for a fairly difficult (or so I thought) exercise involving a corner and a skinny. Considering I only have 5 fences, that’s an accomplishment.

I got on, went through my favorite “Crazy Eights” exercise to start, strung a simple course together, then went for my “difficult” corner/skinny and angle exercise. Henry hopped right through the damn thing on the first try without batting an eye, and I’m pretty sure he was very smugly laughing at me the whole way. Obviously I bore him. I really thought the vertical right turn to corner left turn to skinny might be at least interesting to him, but no. The most reaction I got out of him was a spook at the corner as we cantered past it for our line of angled fences.


As we were walking around the field to cool out, I started brainstorming other exercises I could do, which then led me to what I thought seemed like a fun blog hop idea! What are your favorite exercises? Flatwork or jumping or both!


On the flat my two most-used exercies are canter squares to get his front end up (the joys of a downhill horse), and canter spiral in to walk, which helps keep him rocked back on his hind end a bit better in the down transition. Let’s be honest, the only way we can accomplish a canter-walk transition right now is on the spiral in. But it definitely helps, as do the squares.

For jumping, as I mentioned above, my favorite one is what I’ve dubbed Crazy Eights. I think I saw someone else refer to it as Count Up. Either way. Basically I just have one tiny fence or a single pole on the ground that I canter on a circle, and each time I go over it I start counting strides from further away. So on the first pass when you’re one stride away you’d count one, on the second pass you’d count down from two, on third pass from 3, etc all the way up to 8 from each direction. The point is to be more aware of your rhythm and where you are in relation to fence, and it helps hone your eye for a distance. The key is that you’re not allowed to change the canter to make your count correct. If I start my count to close or too far away, then I’m just wrong… I don’t get to pull or kick and make it work. As someone who really loves to mess with the canter, this exercise is excellent for my self control.

Very interested to hear what everyone else likes!

23 thoughts on “Blog Hop: Favorite Exercises

  1. Dressage rider here, so no jumping exercises, but I have about a million flat exercises.

    To play with your square exercise, I love the square turn with a small leg yield after. The square makes sure I have his shoulders and the leg yield helps us get more ‘inside leg to outside hand’.

    Poles on a circle (there are a ton of good ones), but I like three-four trot poles on one side and three-four canter poles on the other side. It’s really difficult to be throwing in two transitions on the circle and remain balanced and controlled enough to make it through the poles easily. Could be made easier with just one pole to start with.


  2. My favorite flat work exercise is “square like” as well. I make a square out of a 20ish meter circle and ride shoulder in on each side. Then, when I get to the corner I straighten with my outside rein, and ask for 1-2 steps of turn on the haunches until she is set up to shoulder in on the next square side.

    No idea if that makes sense so good luck deciphering!


  3. My favorite exercise right now is a trot on the long side, to walk shoulder-in a few steps, to trot straight again, over and over emphasizing the horse growing taller and feeling the horse’s hind feet. The horse gets nicely collected and more sitting, the trot keeps the energy flowing, the transitions help the engagement, and after a few repetitions the trot shoulder-in should be better as well. Also works great with haunches-in.


  4. Lease horse is a bit of a stress ball about leg = forward, so the more I can do to keep his mind active the better he is at accepting leg can mean something else. Square circles are a big one for us right now, too. I do a lot on a circle, with a focus on transitions.Mostly within the canter, 8 strides forward 8 strides collected, down to 4 of each, back up to 8. And then the same between the walk and canter, where he has to actually walk during the walk and keep the shape.


  5. I’m a big fan of compressed one stride grids. And 6 stride lines for keeping me honest about my canter (and for experimenting with different canters for 5 and 7). Honestly tho I rarely school myself over fences these days and when I do, it’s over the preexisting hunter fences (moving them is… Frown upon to say the least). So…. Mostly I’m just kinda flatting my horse and setting up the occasional ground pole exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I rarely school myself over fences, but we love ourselves some canter poles these days, set to short strides. We’re still developing that short powerful canter, so having the poles there as a reminder helps Frankie process “short stride does not equal weak.” That, and lots and lots of lateral work to get him off my frickin’ left leg.


  7. I love your exercise of cantering over one pole and counting strides – I could really use that practice! We haven’t started jumping yet, so I don’t have any favorite exercises there, but a favorite flat exercise of mine is one I used to do when I rode a few broke reiners that’s similar to your square exercise. The ones that would get anxious about lead changes or lazy really benefitted from this. I counter-canter a square and make the hip move to the outside when I turn. It’s almost a turn on the forehand but at a canter. But this really allows me to start getting the horses used to leg, me moving different parts of their body, and relaxing when leg is applied. Since you have a counter bend, it’s a little more like outside leg to inside hand. Plus, with the “inside” leg, I use it as necessary to remind the horses to keep their shoulders up. Once they’ve started to relax, I shift my weight, apply a little leg, and they switch leads no muss no fuss. Pretty soon they start hunting that lead change because it’s easier than counter canter squares! I also think it helps straightness when it comes time to change leads.


  8. My current “favorite” flat exercise that my dressage coach has us doing, is turn up (@the trot) the center line leg yield towards outside wall do transition to walk and back to trot while maintaining the leg yield. This really helps get solid leg to hand happening and it really helps our canter be less down hill ish. Another variation of this is to shoulder in or Traver done the long side st the trot downward transition to work and back to trot while maintaining it. For added challenge do trot canter transitions.😈😈😈😈
    When lazy or having limited fences I like to set two diagonal fences on the same quarter line. This way I can school it single diagonal to single diagonal, diagonal bending line to diagonal or turn up the quarter line and ride directly from one to the other. You could also substitute them for corners for added challenge.


  9. My favorite exercise right now is a tight 4 loop serpentine, starting from a halt on the centerline and going right into a collected trot, picking up a collected canter on the half circle portion of the loop, and halting again as we cross the centerline. Rinse and repeat until the horse has a good half halt and prompt transitions into collection. Our biggest struggles are the halt > collected trot and canter > halt transitions. This basically rolls practice for both into one, and it varies the exercise enough that Pig doesn’t get annoyed with halt repetition and think I’m yelling at him.


  10. I have a long backed, downhill horse, and bounces sandwiching a wide oxer are great to get them to compress, extend, compress. I think Jimmy has one in his first book, but it’s usually bounce, bounce, one stride to low, wide oxer, one stride, bounce, bounce. Sometimes I mix it up and throw placing poles in regular grids that have a one stride to remind pony to sit back on his butt and not get strung out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The one I am currently using to activate the hind end a lot and get Taran hotter off my leg is 20 m circle in shoulder in, then haunches in, then shoulder in, haunches in, etc. Can be done in walk and trot.


  12. Definitely going to hop in on this. Lately I’m really digging my bounce grid. There are a few other exercises we set up though so that we can work on different “courses”. I’ll have to draft some of them up 🙂

    On the flat I love to hate the spiral… so good for Annie. One of my least faves though to actually ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Good post! Here are a few of my favorite over fences exercises. I like to do a grid of pole 10ft jump 10 ft pole 10 ft jump 10 ft pole 10ft jump 10 ft pole. For the jumps I like to use high cross rails (like on the top hole) to keep them straight or I use verticals with v rails. Another exercise is a 5 stride line and I do it in 4 strides, 5 strides, 6 strides, and even 7 strides depending on the horse. Another exercise I like is to jump a course on one lead. For example, if I horse is weak to the right, I’ll jump the whole course on the right lead. Another exercise if I don’t have time to set a whole course is pole 4 strides jump 4 strides pole. It’s a good exercise to teach you to ride the landing side.

    On the flat I do a lot of transitions within the gaits and tons of counter canter. I like to do 4 loop canter serpentines staying on one lead. I also like to do counter bend on a 20 meter circle. I’ll counter bend 5 strides, then regular bend five strides, counter bend five strides etc… I like this exercise to supple the horse and to get them on the outside rein.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s