This is a simple exercise to do every time your horse tries to cut corners, hurry or rush through them. This exercise will help you straighten out your horse’s movements, he’ll respond better, and he’ll learn to wait and listen patiently for your cues.
The best place to learn and practice this exercise is an arena with corners (not an oval or circle). Make sure you are using the arena when no one else is, and at a time that is free of distractions. It will be much easier to concentrate and your horse will learn faster when no one else is around (or in your way).
First, you need to determine how far your horse can go into the corner without loosing balance or rhythm. Ride your horse toward the corner encouraging good forward motion at the walk. Go as deep as you can into the corner without losing rhythm or balance (or attention). If he looses rhythm, balance or if he begins to hurry, he is too deep into the corner at this point. We will work to make him more supple and relaxed in his corners.
Place traffic cones or any other type of marker that is safe to use (just incase he steps on it) at the spot just before he looses either rhythm or balance – this way you’ll have a marker to show you how far you should go. Ask your horse to walk forward with a good, solid 4-beat step. As you come to the corner, look for the first turn marker.
If at any time he becomes stiff, speeds up, or leans in – IMMEDIATELY straighten him and point him directly into the corner. HALT him (parallel to the outside rail of the corner). When you ask him to halt, keep your rein and leg cues even on both sides so that you will get a straight halt.
If he doesn’t halt right when you ask him, turn him into the corner and let him “run into” the rail or wall. He will eventually learn to listen carefully to you and halt off a very light cue.
Once you have halted and given him the reins (slack in the reins), wait a few seconds and take contact again, asking him to turn and continue to the next corner.
Do NOT be severe when using this exercise.
The halt should NOT be used as a punishment, but instead as a gentle, corrective aid used to gain control, balance and rhythm.
The next step is to teach him to wait and be patient. When you have halted and he is standing still, give him the reins completely. Allow him to stand there for a couple of seconds…then ask him to move off again. If he somehow manages to move (which should be very hard with a rail in front of his face), halt him quietly again and give him the reins…let him wait again. When he stands quietly, praise him. Do not allow him to move out of the halt unless you have asked him to.
To increase his patience, slowly increase the time he stands quietly. Anticipate when he will lose patience and ask for a walk just a second before. This way he won’t have the chance to be impatient and will learn to relax and not hurry. Also, if he begins to anticipate stopping at each corner, pass up every-other corner or every-third corner (you don’t want a horse who halts in every corner due to too much repetition). Alternate corners that you halt in.
When he can do this exercise well, move the cone slightly closer to the corner and start over from the beginning. Do not hurry with this exercise (you don’t want him to learn to hurry more than he already does).
Once he does this exercise well at the walk, try it at the trot and work up from there. Practice this exercise every day and soon you’ll be rhythmically bending DEEP into the corner!