76 Issue 3 · 2013
This article will conclude the series on exercises to
improve the rider's form and balance. If you have been
practicing the exercises from the series, your balance and
relaxation, as well as confidence while riding, should have
improved. The exercises in this article will be done on the
longe at the canter. If you do not feel that you are ready for them now,
keep practicing the exercises from previous articles until your balance and
Once again, you will need a consistent, well-schooled horse tacked up
with saddle, a halter with longe line properly attached, and leg protection.
Your helper should know how to longe a horse. Do exercises on the longe in
a large enclosed area such as a paddock, corral, or arena to give you and
your horse more security.
Remember the key words from the previous lessons: Do each exercise
SLOWLY. BREATHE because it encourages relaxation. Think "CENTER-
SQUARE-BALANCED." STOP if you experience any pain or have medical
conditions that could be complicated by doing any of these exercises.
Warm up yourself and your horse by doing exercises at the walk, trot,
and extended trot. Remember the rider is responsible for keeping the horse
out on the circle and for speed control through the use of her seat, leg, and
voice aids. Working at the canter will be more challenging. At the same time
she is performing theses exercises, the rider must effectively use her aids
to keep her horse from breaking from the canter to the trot.
When you and your helper agree that you are prepared for longe work
at the canter, prepare your aids and ask your horse for an upward transition
from the trot. You should stay relaxed with hands down at your sides as
your horse strikes off into a canter. You should not hold your horse with your
knees, but rather keep your legs "soft." Your body needs to stay centered.
Do a few circles at the canter to give yourself a feel of riding this gait without
reins before you begin the following exercises.
While at the canter, extend one arm and then the other so that both are
straight out in front of you at should height with the palms facing downwards.
Hold them in this position for several strides, and then open your arms so
they are extended out to your sides. Hold this position for a few strides. Now
bring both arms back to the starting position in front of you. Tip: Be sure to
keep your chest up, open, and shoulders back. Do not slump! Keep looking
ahead while doing this exercise.
Four-Point Arm Circles:
You have done this one before at the walk and trot. Start in the same
position as in the Arm Extensions with arms extended straight ahead at
shoulder height. As you keep the left arm in the starting position, rotate the
right arm with the palm down so it extends overhead. Rotate the shoulder
so that the arm makes a big circle until the arm is behind you. Continue the
arm circle by bringing the hand down to your side. Finish with the right arm
back at the starting position. Do the exercise with the other arm. Do these
arm rotations slowly.
Behind Your Back:
Place both hands behind you on the small of your back. Do several
strides of the canter in this position. Now bring your arms above your head,
keeping the elements of your form in proper position. Finish by bringing the
arms back down to your sides. Remember to breathe and relax!
Bent Elbow Swings:
Hold the arm that is toward the inside of the longe circle down at
your side. Bend the elbow of the outside arm in a 90-degree angle. Slowly
swing the bent arm forwards and backwards. Look to the inside of the longe
circle as you do this exercise. Do several repetitions. Switch arms, and look
toward the outside of the longe circle while working the inside arm.
To finish the exercises at the canter, untie your reins without looking.
By putting more weight in your seat and using leg and voice aids, bring your
horse back to the trot. Keep your shoulders back and weight in your seat
to make the transition to the trot. Trot a couple of circles and ask for the
downward transition to the walk. Then halt.
Exercises on the longe at the walk, trot, and canter are fun and
extremely beneficial to build relaxation and to improve your riding form and
balance. Use these exercises as often as possible in your daily schooling
or in a warm-up before a competition. Be creative and mix and match
the exercises to develop your personal warm-up and flexibility routine.
Remember to do them in various gaits and varying speeds within each gait.
Note: In order to benefit from these exercises, you must have a horse
that is quiet and reliable. You cannot learn the exercises if you always are
worrying about your horse. You need to be able to concentrate on yourself.
If you are unsure about your horse or if he gives you any problem while
doing theses exercises, move to a more enclosed area like a round pen.
For information about my book, Head to Toe Horsemanship and my
visual series, Dressage Principles for the Western and English Horse and
Building a Partnership with Your Horse
Exercises on the
by Lynn Palm