When the winter weather making riding increasingly difficult, here is a suggestion on how to work your horse when you are short of time (or it's too cold to spend much time outside!). Often, when time is scarce, it is tempting to try to do everything as fast as possible to fit it all in, but this is a great opportunity instead to work on the basics. For novice horses, time spent confirming and consolidating the basics is invaluable, and more advanced horses benefit from a session focused on basic exercises to give them a mental and physical rest.
When time is short, stay in walk. For more advanced horses you can work in a collected walk or use school walk. Start with some simple circles on each rein. These can be 20m, going down to 8m depending on your horse. Be attentive to the quality of the circle so your horse engages their inside hind leg well and holds their balance across their shoulders.
From there you can do spirals, serpentines, shallow loops and figures of 8. Then come to the middle of the school and ride some circles changing from left to right as you feel your horse needs. If your horse is ready for lateral work; ride some lateral movements on the sides of the school as well as in the middle, making smooth changes from one movement to the next.
Twenty minutes of correct work like this will exercise your horse well and be far more beneficial than lots of trotting or cantering, and will show benefits in later work as your horse will be more balanced and supple.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
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