Lately, I’ve been working on building Tebow’s strength. Since the weather hasn’t been cooperative, that’s meant lots of transitions, and to shake it up we did a tricky serpentine exercise that was really useful. Here’s a basic (poorly drawn) diagram of what we did.
So: multi-loop serpentine with small circles as we reached the track. We started out doing it at the trot, using 10-meter circles. It really helped get Tebow using his hind end and working into the aids instead of running through them.
After that was going well, we made it trickier by adding 1 stride of walk as we crossed the center line. Quick transitions are hard work for Tebow anyways, and putting them into a difficult pattern really made him work.
My trainer explained that she really likes this exercise because it makes the horse work for the rider. On the one hand, I could bust my ass trying to connect a horse who’s as long as a bus and possibly still confuse him. Or I could do something like this where the exercise itself makes him connect for him to be able to do it successfully. Tebow’s trot is definitely his weak gait – he has a really upright shoulder and gets very choppy and strung out – but this got him nicely uphill and powering through.
To finish, we tried it a few times at the canter. Confession: When my trainer said, “Okay, now we’re going to do this cantering,” my first reaction was hahahahaha. But I pay her to make me do stuff I wouldn’t have the guts to try on my own, so… off we went!
For cantering, there are fewer loops and the circles are 15-meters. No transitions across the center line – just a simple change as we returned to the track. This is really hard! At first Tebow was running through my aids and leaning, but I stuck with it. There are a couple tricks to doing it right: 1. Turn with the OUTSIDE aids, and 2. Think ahead (quickly!). It really made me plan and coordinate.
But all our canter work is paying off, because Tebow totally nailed his leads. Just a couple weeks ago he was very inconsistent about picking up the right lead, and now he’s basically entirely reliable even in a really tricky exercise with lots of changes where I could easily forgive him for slipping up.
And while it felt wonky at first, towards the end we were getting a few strides of awesome work where he actually rounded over his back and my trainer was really impressed. She thinks this is going to really help him start making the leap to more advanced work, so we’ll be doing lots of this for the foreseeable future…
A word of advice to anyone who’d like to try this: Tebow & I are moderately fit, and we were both pretty beat by the end of our 30 minute lesson. It’s definitely something to do in moderation when you’re starting out – we only did it cantering three times and that was plenty for an introduction to the exercise.