Alex Holman – Training Exercises
All of the horses are now back from their end of season breaks, and are cracking on at various stages of work, to get ready for the 2019 event season! All of them are feeling really good, so fingers crossed they’re set to progress towards their first scheduled runs.
I use a variety of different exercises to help me with all areas of my horses’ training, and to make sure that their routines are always varied - here are some of the exercises that I use most regularly, suitable for all horses:
Long-reining / leading out:
Essentially hacking on foot with the horses, using an aid such as a pessoa whilst doing so:
- Building horses’ strength & fitness – a different workout for them, without a rider on top – especially when using hills & longer trots
- Reduces spooking – a more spooky horse can focus on their work and be far more relaxed when you walk with them in an aid, AND you can see the hack from the horses’ eyes to spot hidden, ‘scary’ objects, to prepare for when you’re actually riding – this works!
- Doubles up as good rider fitness if you incorporate hills and/or trotting into the hack – a great way to work off that Christmas chocolate in the New Year…
- I find that this is a refreshing way to spend time closer to your horse
- A great time-saver during the winter, with less daylight hours, as the horse will potentially work a greater amount in a shorter period of time (as with lunging).
Canter pole – raised pole – spread of cross poles – low, wide parallel
The canter pole to raised pole to the spread of cross poles are set at a usual canter pole/placing pole distance into the spread, then I use 2 strides between the cross poles and the final parallel. This grid can be broken down into any of the different parts to be easier or more difficult for horses/riders of any level, but as the full grid it makes the horse work in multiple ways.
The poles will help bring the horse into the first fence in a balanced, measured canter, and then the raised pole will help round the horse’s stride, so that they have to push off over the first spread. The double cross pole will help by 1) encouraging the horse to be neat/sharp in front and 2) getting them up in the air. I then use 2 strides to help the horse to have time following the first part of the grid, before a low, wide parallel with a good ground line. This will make the horse stretch over the fence, which is a different type of jump to the first part of the grid.
I find that this especially helps horses that can dwell in the air over a fence (jumping higher rather than across spreads), as they can still be engaged, and remember their technique over the first part, but then they will have to stretch over the final parallel, and so learn to co-ordinate picking their legs up with using themselves properly to clear the fence. This is a good workout for any horse as it uses a range of their jumping skills, including some agility and thinking on the way into the first fence!
Bending the horse to the inside, then the outside:
This is quite a simple ‘exercise’, but one that I use on nearly every horse I ride, and benefits both rider and horse. It sounds very simple, but takes more than just pulling on either rein, and is something that many riders I’ve observed have not done, and may not have attempted. As with both previous ideas, this can be used to suit all levels of horse.
- Helps to relax the horse’s neck
- Can be used to encourage stretching, allowing the horse to engage their core & use their back
- Improves overall suppleness and balance in the horse
- Forces the rider to use all aids to control the horse’s movement – ie using the core to keep the horse together, and creating bend from the leg, not by pulling right to bend the horse to that way (etc) to control the shoulders and keep the horse straight on the turns
This can be more difficult than it may seem if your horse lacks suppleness or is not off the leg – it is important to bend the horse each way around your leg, and only use the hand to guide them if needed. You can make the horse engage and listen further by bending either way and using a slight leg yield towards or in the opposite direction to the bend. This helps to control the shoulders, which will aid a horse that finds it tricky to stay straight one way or the other.
This can lead to more difficult exercises, such as serpentines with counter flexion, working on purely outside aids to turn, then more advanced work - using shoulder in, leg yield and travers in opposite bends quickly, to help a horse to engage their hindleg, and through their core and back.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it