3 Horses Serpentine

Today there was a jump set up in the middle of each quarter line when I got to the barn.   I took the poles off the jump, but left the standards set up.  I put the poles on the ground on the quarter line, one in between K and V, and the other in between S and H.  I set the other quarter line the same way.  To warm up, the horses trotted the quarter lines, over the poles at either end of the arena.  Once warmed up, the horses trotted a serpentine, staying to the outside of the poles but going in between the jump standards at E and B.   With the poles and jump standards as guidelines, the goal was for  horse and rider to navigate the same smooth curve each time around the arena, which would allow for concentration on changing the bend and focus on the quality of the movement.

In a lesson on Angel, the emphasis of this exercise was on the steering for a more novice rider.  It was a challenge to keep Angel in the corner, looking the direction she was going (versus keeping her in the corner by pulling the outside rein, which made Angel look at the wall), and then changing the aids to  steer her away from the wall, between the jump standards, and then back to the wall in time to avoid trotting over the pole.  The biggest challenge was often the corner after the serpentine.  As the rider went to bend Angel through the corner, often Angel simply turned again.  By the end of the lesson, the rider had coordinated her aids so she could differentiate turning away from the wall, and bending through the corner but staying on the rail.

In another lesson, Frankie did the same exercise.  With him, the tough part of the exercise was getting him to bend, straighten, bend the other way, straighten, and then bend through the corner.  He is a little stiffer, and quite talented at running through his outside shoulder or motorcycling through turns if the rider does not ride him correctly and keep him connected.  This exercise worked really well to demonstrate when his rider was focused and using all her aids to keep him connected and bending correctly because he instantly gave her a positive result- smooth serpentine!  On the other hand, when things fell apart, it was very hard to even steer Frankie between the jump standards.  This was a great exercise because the rider could clearly tell the difference, which enabled her to get more pro-active about preparing him for the serpentine so that they could ride it smoothly.

I also did the same pattern with Cava.  She started out really fresh, and the pattern was most helpful in making her think about where she was going, and continually changing the bend helped keep her back up and keep her stepping into the outside rein with appropriate contact.  With her, I started out trotting the quarter lines over the poles, then I switched to the serpentines because she was getting strong and rushing going straight over the poles, ignoring my half halts. Once we did the serpentines and she was better balanced and listening, I switched it up by going straight down the quarter line over the first pole, and then leg yielded back to the rail around the second pole.  I also tried to switch it up by leg yielding from the first corner into the quarter line, but as fresh as she was, she kept taking any aid from my outside leg as a canter aid.  So I changed again, and rode the serpentines in the canter, working a few steps of counter-canter as we headed back to the second corner.  This worked really well to get her focused and paying attention in the canter, even through she was having a thoroughbred day and wanted to grab the bit and run!

So, one layout of jump standards and poles worked very effectively for a few different arena patterns, which could be tailored to different horse/rider ability levels.  Even at different levels, everyone was able to benefit from the pattern, and take different things away from it.

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2 thoughts on “3 Horses Serpentine

  1. That sounds like a lot of fun. I recently did this exercise and it began with 2 loops, then 3, 4 and finally 6. I loved how it really engaged my mind and hopefully my equine partner’s. I lost some of my throughness and rhythm in places but all in good time.

  2. I rode the exercise today – the poles were still out – and it was far different than just doing serpentines on my own – and more valuable. Having to do the serpentines at specific points – and within the boundaries set by the ground poles – made this a very different exercise. The structure helped me, because I knew that in order to get a good bend in the corner (and to set me up for a quality serpentine) I really had to think ahead, and half halt a bit before A or C. Good exercise, thanks Christy!

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