Western Dressage Exercise – Half N Half

In terms of improving a horse’s athleticism and balance, I cannot underscore enough the value of exercises that require stride adjustment, regardless of gait. As mentioned in previous posts, these types of routines recruit muscle fibers at different rates of force and speed, causing them to develop propulsive power and more fine-tuned limb control. As a side benefit, they also ward off the effects of repetitive motion strains and dullness in a horse’s movement.

Practicing these exercises also delivers unexpected feedback about your effectiveness as a rider. For instance, a rider might think she is using her seat clearly but then finds herself plowing through the following pattern without acing the correct stride counts. Or, maybe in doing so she holds her breath and tightens her hands, which causes the horse to raise his neck and hollow. Exercises like these give tangible, real-time opportunities to realize our tendencies as riders and also gives us a chance to fix them. As you can see, all kinds of productive—and fun—work can be accomplished with stride adjustment exercises.

The following exercise, Half n’ Half, is preferably done in a lope or jog. It is also best to mark the center of your ground poles with some paint, a piece of tape, or an X of some kind. This target will prevent you from drifting to the outer edge of each pole.

Half n’ Half

  1. Mark out a 20-meter circle. Imagining that the circle is a clock face, lie a ground pole at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, so that the track of the circle crosses through the center of each ground pole.
  2. Begin in a working jog and ride around your circle. Be sure to cross the CENTER of each pole, not the edges.
  3. Now count your strides between poles. Each front leg landing counts as a stride. Most horses will take approximately 22-26 strides per half of circle, depending on their size.
  4. Determine your horse’s number of strides between each pole and then ride two circles being sure to keep that number exactly the same between poles.
  5. Now, ride one half of your circle—from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock in a more ground-covering jog. Count your strides. If you accurately change your horse’s length of strides, you should cover this distance in approximately 20 strides.
  6. Then for the second half of your circle, from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock, ask your horse to resume his “normal” stride count, based on the stride numbers you counted in the beginning.
  7. Continue riding around the circle this way, being sure to continue aiming for the center of each pole, maintaining your geometry, and counting (and changing) strides on each half of the circle.
  8. After mastering in both directions, follow the same routine in lope.



Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012



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