10 Training Exercises to Try with Your Horse at Home

We have definitely spent more time training our horses at home over the last year. With less opportunities for lessons or clinics, it can be difficult to think of different exercises to keep you and your horse motivated.

In This Article:

1. Circle Variations

2. Figure 8

3. Cloverleaf

4. Corner Circles

5. Serpentines

6. Cone Weaving

7. Leg Yield

8. Poles on a Circle

9. Fanned Poles on a Circle

10. Raised Poles on a Circle

 

To get the most out of your schooling session, complete each exercise on both reins and remember to look where you’re going and not at your horse.

1. Circle Variations

 The Exercise: Ride three different sized circles using the poles as a guide.

The Benefits: This helps you ensure that each segment of your circle is even as the poles keep you on track – we’ve all been there where our 20m circle is more like an egg! It also improves your horse’s suppleness.

Mix it Up: Try each circle in a different gait, or even doing transitions on each circle to really get your horse listening.

Back to Top

2. Figure 8

Horse training exercise figure 8

The Exercise: Ride diagonally across the square before looping round the poles and back across the middle.

The Benefits: This exercise helps you to keep your horse straight and be able to ask for bend. You’ll also be able to see if your horse bends more easily in one direction so you can work on them being balanced on both reins.

Mix it Up: To get your horse really listening, use transitions throughout the exercise to keep them thinking.

Back to Top

3. Cloverleaf

Horse schooling exercise cloverleaf

The Exercise: Ride over the poles before turning to the poles on the left or right. Instead of staying on a circle, turn in the other direction to loop round the other way.

The Benefits: This is a good exercise for horses that are easily bored in the arena, or start to anticipate your aids. It’s also great for helping you use your inside leg and outside rein to get the right level of flexion for each circle.

Mix it Up: You can raise the outside poles for a more intensive workout. You can also make them into a small jump but make sure you allow your horse enough space to make each turn so you are approaching the jump straight.

Back to Top

4. Corner Circles

Horse schooling polework corner circles

The Exercise: Ride a circle using each corner of the square and the corresponding poles.

The Benefits: This is helpful for working on your own accuracy when riding circles. Try to hit the centre of the middle pole to keep your circle even.

Mix it Up: Change the distance between the poles if you want to ride it in canter. 

Back to Top

5. Serpentines

Horse schooling serpentines exercise

The Exercise: Ride or drive a three-loop serpentine, crossing between the cones in the middle of the arena.

The Benefits: Makes you and your horse work together to stay straight and accurately turn to make each loop even.

Mix it Up: Use transitions throughout the exercise to improve your horse’s responsiveness. You can also add more cones to increase the number of serpentines and the tightness of the loops. Drivers, you can also add balls to the driving cones to really hone your accuracy and prepare for competitions.

Back to Top

6. Cone Weaving

Cone weaving horse schooling or driving exercise

The Exercise: Weave between the cones up the arena before looping round the top cone and weaving back down.

The Benefits: Helps your horse to improve their strength and flexibility. You can also fine tune your aids so you can apply the lightest pressure to get the response you want.

Mix it Up: Vary the size of your loops around the cones, or add transitions in such as halting when you’re in-between the cones.

Back to Top

7. Leg Yield

Leg yield horse training exercise

The Exercise: Ride straight along the side of the arena before asking your horse for leg yield so you travel sideways between the cones.  

The Benefits: Leg yield improves your horse’s suppleness. By focusing on achieving the movement between the cones, you also get more of a feel for how responsive your horse is and how early you need to prepare to make it happen.  

Mix it Up: Make it more challenging by decreasing the distance between the cones so you have to be really accurate with your aids.

Back to Top

8. Poles on a Circle

Polework on circle horse schooling or lunging

The Exercise: Ride or lunge a circle over the poles set out at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.  

The Benefits: A good way to introduce your horse to working over poles. It helps to improve their rhythm and suppleness as you bend round the circle.   

Mix it Up: Count how many strides your horse takes between the poles. Then, try collecting or lengthening the stride to adjust this number. If you’re lunging, you could also use a training system on your horse to help build muscle tone and encourage correct movement.

Back to Top

9. Fanned Poles on a Circle

Fanned poles on a circle horse training

The Exercise: Ride or lunge on a circle, varying the size of the circle so it reaches the inside, middle, or outside of the poles.  

The Benefits: Engages your horse from behind and the poles help the stride stay even. Also helps your horse to use the muscles in their back and neck as you allow them to look down over the poles.

Mix it Up: Change the distance between the poles to try this in canter once you’ve mastered it in trot.

Back to Top

10. Raised Poles on a Circle

Raised poles on a circle horse schooling and lunging

The Exercise: A more advanced version of the varying circles exercise. Raise the end of alternate poles and ride or lunge over them in walk and trot.

The Benefits: The raised poles encourage a more active stride and is a more challenging workout. Don’t overdo this exercise as it is quite strenuous.

Mix it Up: Change the size of the circle so you are working over different heights of pole.

We hope this gave you some new ideas to try at home. With just a few poles and cones, you can mix up your schooling sessions while improving your horse’s way of going. Will you be trying any of these exercises out?

Back to Top

 

We are very happy for you to share our blog posts via social media buttons, in fact we're delighted if you do! However, please do not copy our content as it is protected by copyscape so we will know very quickly if you do! Thank you.


4 comments


  • Lezley Aldrich

    Thanks for the ideas, now the weather has improved I can “crack on” with a plan of action (or should I say with your plan 😂) very much appreciated


  • Jane Skinner

    Great ideas here, although not sure many of us have a dozen poles at our disposal! but the principles are there for us to adapt. Thanks very much for including them on your website.


  • Brenda Furness

    Our 22 year old Criollo gets so bored in the arena, unless he’s jumping, these exercises will add some variety for us. Incidentally, the pole lifters/cones I use are Ikea potties. They are really stable when full of water and cost £2.49 each.


  • Sue Johnson

    Is it possible to buy a print out of these exercises as being disabled I feel they will really help me?


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published