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  1. #1
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    Jul. 20, 2004
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    Default Favorite Small Arena exercises

    There's a good chance I'm going to be confined to the smallish indoor with my horse this winter, and I'm already starting to run out of ideas! What are your favorite exercises when you're confined?

    I have some poles and the rail razer plastic ends to make cavaletti. I also have a few of those white plastic "bloks" that you can use to make x-rails and low jumps.

    I'm transitioning my half-arab (other half saddlebred) to dressage. He was a saddleseat show horse. He's had about 6 months off, just turned out 24/7 to let his muscles relax. He has been trained to go above & behind contact, and front action was encouraged in his discipline, so he tends to hollow his back in order to lift his shoulders, which exacerbates the trailing hocks.

    The intro to contact is going better than I expected. He's a bit of a nervous horse, and like many with his temperament he seems to be calmed by a steady mild contact. I've been doing belly lifting stretches with him on the ground and I think it's paying off under saddle as well. I focus on keeping steady contact regardless of his head placement, and keeping his hind end active. I've introduced some cavaletti and that has helped him focus his attention to the ground (hooray for anything that gets his ears out of my face! ). I've also been doing the usual stuff like spiral in/out. I've also introduced serpentines, which oddly he was completely unfamiliar with. I like to try to do them with mostly outside aids and using as little inside rein/leg as possible as a test of my connection.

    His canter is a hot mess, and unfortunately I think the solution for that is going to be in getting him out in a wide open space and hand galloping his hind end back up to his front. But I have been working on some transitions there as well, just trying to simplify the aids for him, getting an obedient transition and a few strides, then back to walk or trot. He has some anxiety about canter so I think this is helping.

    Unfortunately, it's been less than a month and I'm running low on ideas already! So fellow confined COTHers, what do you do in your small indoors over the winter? What are your favorite exercises?


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  2. #2
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    Mar. 25, 2011
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    I make a 2 (poles) x 3 (poles) rectangle and figure 8 the short sides and bend the long sides (weave). The figure 8 helps me with bending and the weaving helps with leg yields -at least for me. The pattern also keeps the horse engaged mentally because we're always doing something.

    JMO YMMV I'm no trainer.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  3. #3
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    Jun. 7, 2002
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    In the winter, when all the jumps are stored away and the outdoor ring looks oh so empty, I make god use of my 101 Dressage Exercises book...lots of exercises for all levels and I can always find something interesting to work on even if the footing isn't great.
    Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!



  4. #4
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    Jan. 30, 2010
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    Default

    My Arab/Dutch Harness horse is benefiting from with with a neck rope (TeamTouch). Not sure how/why it works, but it seems to help her drop her head and lift the base of her neck, which is helping her learn to use her back better.
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!



  5. #5
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    I'd forgotten about that! Now I'm going to have to get one. Thanks for the reminder, CHT!

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  6. #6
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    Jul. 11, 2011
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    Default

    Trot to halt to trot to halt to trot...

    Make it a magical transition!



  7. #7
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    Jul. 20, 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHT View Post
    My Arab/Dutch Harness horse is benefiting from with with a neck rope (TeamTouch). Not sure how/why it works, but it seems to help her drop her head and lift the base of her neck, which is helping her learn to use her back better.
    The neck rope is a great and vastly under-used tool. Pulling the neck rope applies backwards and upwards pressure at the junction of the chest/neck, causing the horse to lift the neck and shoulders while shifting the weight back over the hind end. It is immensely useful for those horses who like to get heavy up front, and for those horses who are fussy or anxious about the bit, as it takes it out of the equation.

    Many saddleseat horses are "propped up" off the curb bit, so lifting the shoulders/neck comes naturally (especially with my guy, whose conformation also lends well to that) but unfortunately he hollows his back to lift his shoulders, instead of lifting his back and reaching under with his hind legs. But thank you for the reminder of the neck rope, I have a feeling it may be very useful in the spring when we get out in the wide open and work on the canter restoration. My guy isn't very trusting of the bit so the neck rope will undoubtedly remove some of that anxiety for him.

    I'm always looking for new cavaletti configurations. So far I've found the best results by putting 2 at a slightly awkward trotting distance (this makes him focus a little more). We figure 8 through the channel they form, and then circle back and trot over.

    The farm owner stores tractors/equipment at one end so that makes it even smaller, but it did make for a good de-spooking session the first ride! A freind suggested that I implement the "junk" and train him for trail!



  8. #8
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    Jan. 30, 2010
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    If the caveletti are long enough, you could put them on a gentle arc, then alternatively ride the inside, outside, and center of the arc to work on longer and shorter steps.
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!



  9. #9
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    Jul. 14, 2003
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    MA
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    You may want to invest in this book

    http://www.amazon.com/Dressage-Exerc...orse+%26+rider
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  10. #10
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    Jun. 23, 2006
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    SW PA
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    There's also an iPhone app for this one!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
    You may want to invest in this book

    http://www.amazon.com/Dressage-Exerc...orse+%26+rider
    Boyle Heights Kid 1998 OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
    Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
    "Once you go off track, you never go back!"



  11. #11
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    Jul. 20, 2004
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    Default

    Fanning the ground poles is a great idea. They aren't very long but I think I might be able to work it. Like many arabs, extending his gaits doesn't come as naturally as collecting them, so that might help!

    In browsing Amazon, I found many books have "free preview" pages. I am going to order the 101 exercises book because it has some great exercises, but most of the ones I saw were not small-arena friendly.

    It's tough because I really think he needs more room to work on extension, long and low, some lateral work. I'm grateful to have the small indoor with the weather being so wonky, but I feel like I'm constantly in a corner or coming up on one!



  12. #12
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    Jun. 29, 2011
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    Two things I do to stave off boredom and introduce some variety for my horse and for me are:

    1) Riding through every dressage test at every level, modifying as needed (Can't half pass? Leg yield or just ride a diagonal. Can't do tempi changes? Try for two or more simple changes.) Makes me think about where we are going with training instead of just where we are, and often highlights areas that I need to work on.

    2) For 5-10 minutes, do something, anything, at every single letter you come to (or every other letter if you need more time to prepare and organize), or every place they'd be if you put them up. Transition up, transition up again, transition down, lengthen, collect, circle, turn, etc. Drives my horse crazy at first, then he gets into it and pays very close attention since he knows we are always about to do something new. Can also be fun in Simon Says or Follow the Leader format if you've got someone to ride with.

    Another exercise I like to do is counting strides to see how much I can lengthen and collect. My horse might get 15 walk strides between M and B; so next time I go for 13 strides, time after that, 18 strides, etc. Good way to practice in a small distance, with lots of transition challenges.

    Grey


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  13. #13
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    Mar. 25, 2011
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    I love that suggestion #1, Grey623! I never would have thought of that.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  14. #14
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    Oct. 9, 2000
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    California
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    How small is small? Like a small court or smaller?

    It is fun to try to do out-of-the-box things where you can't really think about riding and your instincts kick in. Like setting up a line of jump standards and sloloming (?) through them. Or setting up two jump standards and making a "gate" with a lead rope that you have to open, walk through, and close. Or putting a pole on the ground and leg yielding over it. Or putting up a zig-zag chute made of poles and walking in, halting, TOF at the corner, walk to continue, TOH at the corner, then back through the thing. I like exercises that take my mind off riding but help me get things done, if that makes sense.
    My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran



  15. #15
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    Jul. 20, 2004
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    Default

    I'm terrible at dimensions, but just eyeballing it, I'd guess about 60'w x 90'l. To complicate matters, there is a tractor and front loader parked at one end. I have already utilized those in "despooking" 101 since he had no interest in going near them on day 1.

    I do have access to a mailbox and a bridge because the farm owner's fiance used to have a trail horse, so I could continue the despooking process. I have done various things with the cavaletti. Most recently I made a plus-sign out of them, and did a cloverleaf pattern around them. I just feel like I constantly find myself ending up on a 20m circle. It's not the worst thing in the world. Coming from saddleseat to dressage, I do lots of work just getting him used to and accepting the contact and that is all going very well.

    I think my biggest frustration is that I want to work on his canter, but I need a bigger space to do what I have in mind. I'd also like longer sides so I can work on extending his trot so it isn't as "up and down." I like to sit the "short" sides of the arena, and post and try to extend on the long sides, but the "long" sides just aren't long enough and I find myself constantly having to throw a turn in just before I really get a good trot going.

    He's very obedient and we do lots of patterns at the walk. He seems to *almost* know TOF and TOH. I'm thinking maybe he did some eq patterns in his former life. Initially when I rode him in an open field at home he was quite wiggly off the rail , I think he was used to being ridden on the rail at all times. I try to get off the rail but in such a small area that is tough! But I do try to ride a smaller "oval" inside, and throw an outside turn in at each corner just to switch things up.

    Good idea about looking to higher level tests for ideas and making modifications--Thanks!



  16. #16
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    Jul. 3, 2005
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    BC, Canada - PNW
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoyleHeightsKid View Post
    There's also an iPhone app for this one!
    What's the name of the app? I'm having trouble finding it...



  17. #17
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    Feb. 13, 2005
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    The iPhone app is called 101 Dressage. It's very pricey at $19.99:
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/101-...397553526?mt=8

    The app is cool but if you're a tightwad, the Kindle book version is $5 less at 14.99 and there's Kindle apps for practically every smartphone, tablet, computer, etc. under the sun. If you buy the Kindle version, you get to have it on every Kindle-enabled device you own--so for example, on your Android phone AND your iPad AND your home computer AND your Kindle eReader. If in doubt, there's a free Kindle sample for the book so you can see how the ebook version would look on your device.
    http://www.amazon.com/-/dp/B003WOL56...N%3DB003WOL56Y

    While we're here, there's also a Nook version. It's slightly more expensive than the Kindle version.
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/101-...1580175951&r=1

    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    I think my biggest frustration is that I want to work on his canter, but I need a bigger space to do what I have in mind. I'd also like longer sides so I can work on extending his trot so it isn't as "up and down." I like to sit the "short" sides of the arena, and post and try to extend on the long sides, but the "long" sides just aren't long enough and I find myself constantly having to throw a turn in just before I really get a good trot going.
    My barn has a fairly small indoor arena. On the upside, I can't remember the last time I got a comment on a dressage test about geometry because a small arena will make you very, very accurate. You can buy one or two extra strides at trot/canter by riding the diagonal lines a lot. It's very handy for trot work, especially extensions. Less handy for canter work unless your horse knows flying changes, counter canter, or is a very honest citizen about downward transitions. Sometimes on a green bean, I will start canter on a 20 meter circle, then do a long side, then do a diagonal line and transition down from canter out of the diagonal line, then transition back to trot and change the bend.

    I try to get off the rail but in such a small area that is tough! But I do try to ride a smaller "oval" inside, and throw an outside turn in at each corner just to switch things up.
    I ride my horse a lot on the "eighth line," basically halfway between the arena wall and the quarter line. It's just far enough away that neither of us can rely on the wall for guidance, yet not so far away that we're making hairpin turns to get on the other eighth line or the rail. For extra brownie points, ride diagonals to the eighth line--essentially pretending that the rail doesn't exist and that the eighth line is the rail.

    Other techniques I have embraced due to this itty bitty arena:

    1. The bow tie: ride the long side, then do a half 10/15/20 meter circle to come back to the rail at B or E, then repeat the exercise on the opposite rein so that you're constantly returning to B or E from both directions. You can keep your horse guessing by occasionally turning it into a 20-meter half circle to a simple diagonal + switch direction.

    2. Shoulder in halfway down the long side to B or E, then cut across the short diagonal, switch rein and ride a half circle to repeat the exercise on the opposite site. For example, shoulder in H to E, short diagonal to F, half circle around to K, shoulder in K to E, short diagonal to M, half circle around to H, etc.

    3. To help combat the boredom of endless circles, lots of spiral in and out. Except much of the time, to keep things interesting for my Thoroughbred, I will not complete the entire spiral in/out. For example, maybe I start on a 20 meter circle at C, spiral in to a 15 meter circle, then into a 10 meter circle, then back out to the 15 meter circle--but then when we hit a quarter line, take the quarter line straight and either go straight down the wall or ride a leg yield.

    4. When I had the luxury of a bigger arena, I got very complacent about leg yielding from the quarter line to the wall. Well, turns out there's lots of other ways to leg yield too--like from the wall to the quarter line, from the center line to the quarter line, across the diagonal, etc.

    5. The square corner, which you can ride either as a true turn on the forehand or just a really precise turn at walk or trot. I like to do a few square corners just to keep my horse guessing/not complacent that every corner is a typical 20-meter circle kind of corner. I only do one or two in a row, then back to regular corners.

    6. Counter-bending, in small doses, keeps my horse on his toes and breaks the monotony of constantly bending the "right way" around the curve. It's also a great unlocking tool for green or stiff horses.

    7. Like you, I own a set of rail razers/poles. I don't always set them up because it means losing a whole quarter line to the poles, but when I do, I sometimes spice it up by only raising one side of the cavaletti, alternating the raised side among poles. I bought a Reiner Klimke book of cavaletti exercises for about $13 last year, and it's pretty decent. A lot of it is sort of Captain Obvious advice about using cavaletti, but there's a few indispensable chapters in there of creative cavaletti exercises that I would have never dreamed up on my own.

    One of the COTHers also has a blog post series of cavaletti exercises.
    http://sakurahillfarm.blogspot.com/s...el/Cavallettis



  18. #18
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    I like the "string of pearls" exercise. Can be done in any gait and as advanced as the horse is (walk, trot, simple change, flying change, etc.) It's really just connecting a series of circles down the centerline. Helps the horse concentrate on the rider, helps with bending, precision and transitions.



  19. #19
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    Jul. 14, 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by CFFarm View Post
    I like the "string of pearls" exercise. Can be done in any gait and as advanced as the horse is (walk, trot, simple change, flying change, etc.) It's really just connecting a series of circles down the centerline. Helps the horse concentrate on the rider, helps with bending, precision and transitions.
    In an arena the size of the OP's, they would have to be voltes.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
    In an arena the size of the OP's, they would have to be voltes.
    LOL, yes probably, but a lot would depend on how many circles.


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