Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lesson plan: walk, trot, beginning canter

What about: Let's take all the students and pass on the no-stirrups work our trainers inflicted on us to the next generation? Not as catchy. via
So the first two lessons I taught today were 30-minute private lessons.

The first was for a re-rider who began riding at age 4, but took a long hiatus and now has some confidence issues, especially when her horse's attention starts to wander. She has just started to canter again on a big Percheron mare named Bella.

That lesson went very well so I taught another before heading home for some Father's Day celebration. This student was a teenager who also lessons at another farm. She has just started to canter regularly as well with a sporty Percheron/TB named Levi. I adapted the below lesson plan for both of these riders, so I just included everything that came up as an issue.

Setup: Four cones in a diamond shape at one end of the ring for teaching precise circles.

  • Forward: Start with a nice, swingy walk. Feel the movement in your seat and alternate inside and outside leg pressure with the swinging of the horse's barrel.
  • Calm: Follow with seat and hands.
  • Straight: Pretend your hips have laser beams coming out of them (it sounds weird but that is how I like to think of it). Keep them straight and look ahead. If your horse tries to cut in, correct her with inside leg and opening inside rein. If that doesn't work, strengthen the inside leg and inside rein (without dropping the outside rein) until it does, then release and continue with your hips straight.
  • Two-point for one lap: Don't worry about looking like a jumper with your upper body. Feel your heels sink down and your calves connect with your horse's sides. This is the leg position to strive for. If you find your leg swinging, a little bit of  (correct) two-point will help to stabilize it.
  • Bend in corners: Inside leg, opening inside rein, supporting outside rein. Keep the swingy, forward, following walk on the straightaway.
  • Circles: Ride a straight line from one cone to the next, and bend around each cone (inside leg, opening rein, then outside leg to straighten again to the next cone).
  • Straight
  • Bend in corners
  • Change direction across the ring
  • Sit the trot without stirrups (Did this for the second rider. Levi kept cutting in at the canter and she felt that her leg just wasn't there to move him over. Believe me...I can emphathize)
  •  Circles: (same as above)
  • Canter setup: Sit the trot. Inside leg, opening rein, outside leg.  Both horses cut in/were lazy so I told the students to look forward, keep their hips straight, and sort of swivel with an inside rein and leg combination. We were moderately successful but I am sure better straightness and obedience (from the horses. The students were very obedient.) will come with practice.

Feel free to critique or make suggestions! It's only going to help.


  1. Looks good! I like the laser beam analogy. It's very similar to one that Nancy taught Naomi/Naomi taught me, which is to think of the seatbones as gliders that glide forward and back with the horse's hind legs at the walk, and that gliding motion only stops at the halt. For me at first, I realized that I was telling him to walk with my calves but telling him to stop with my immobile seatbones, which made him nervous.

    You are braver than me, I'm terrified to teach other people, I have to get my nerves up just to comment on blogs about my own theories!

  2. Maybe I'll start describing it your way and just secretly thinking of laser beams to myself. Your way describes the reason behind the motion a bit more. It's definitely something I struggle with myself if I'm not thinking about it, especially at the canter. I have no problem saying "GO" with my legs and following with my hands, but I often tense up my back and seat at the canter. Do as I say, not as I do...

  3. Sounds good to me!
    I think lots of horse people eventually get sucked into teaching without formal qualifications. (I know I did)

  4. hmm I need to follow this lesson lol. I'm such a lazy rider.

  5. Hmm I think I need to follow this lesson. I'm such a lazy rider lol