By JOAN WILLIAMS – One of my favorite arena exercises is the square. Horses learn by repetition, using exercises and patterns help strengthen and train your horse.
We start young horses with a 20 M circle or half circle. For these horses, each of the two short sides of the arena consists of a 20m half circle. Unfortunately, many horses then spend the rest of their careers riding the short sides as 20m half circles, instead of progressing towards accurate corners.
Ride a 20 M square, place cones in the corners to ride around, focus on bending and riding smoothly into the corners. Do not be tempted to obtain the flexion and bend with your hands. Using your inner seat bone, together with the position of your legs (Inner leg at the girth, outer leg behind the girth), and shoulders (your shoulders match his shoulders) ride the corner. Straighten your horse on the long sides of the square with your inner leg and your outer rein, sit even on your seat bones, legs side by side. Allow your hands to keep even contact on the reins, straight line elbow, hand, bit, and encourage the horse to continue to seek contact with the bit.
We want to keep our horses straight; between the “corridor of our aids” asking his shoulders and hips to remain on the line of travel. Corners ridden this way will help the horse carry weight on the inside hind leg throughout the corner. In correctly ridden corners the horse “adducts” his inner hind and outer fore. This narrows our horses’ base of support and makes him more mobile.
Once you have an accurate square, collect in the corners, forward on the long sides maintaining the same tempo. Each corner will help rebalance the horse.
As your horse progresses in his training, he may begin to work on a 15 meter square. Higher trained horses may use a 10 meter square. When ridden correctly, this work builds muscle and carrying power behind. It is important to remember to vary your exercises and allow the horse breaks to stretch.
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