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August 2004

How To Think
Like A Horse
101 Arena Exercises
101 Longeing and
Long Lining Exercises
Longeing and Long Lining
English and Western
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
101 Longeing and Long Lining Exeercises
101 Longeing and Long Lining Exeercises
Longeing and Long Lining the Western Horse

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    2006 Cherry Hill

Ask Cherry - Better Riding

This newsletter is a personal letter from me to you, a fellow horse owner and enthusiast.
My goal is to answer some of your questions and send you interesting stories and helpful tips for your horse care, training, and riding.

Please accept our apology if you received this newsletter in error. When upgrading to a new computer, all of our personal, business, and newsletter e-mail addresses got mixed into one huge batch! Yikes! We tried to separate them as best as we could, but if you are one of our personal or business correspondents who received this newsletter in error, just reply to this message with "Remove" in the subject or body.

This month's newsletter will answer a few questions about riding.

Dear Cherry,

I'm riding a three year old who is gentle but not trained and he is the first horse that I've ever ridden that wasn't already push button. I get so confused and I'm sure I am making him that way too because there are so many things to work on and I don't know what to do first. He stands still for mounting then it is hard to get him to go and when he does he goes like a wiggle worm. I can't turn him or ride a circle and I don't know when I should work on what. What should I work on first? Janette

Hi Janette,

When I am starting a new horse under saddle, I keep the following goals in mind. Forward, straight and steady.

Once I know a horse is fairly accepting of being ridden, I want to be sure he knows how to move forward with energy. Although it is OK to move around at the walk during the first few rides to let the two of you get used to each other, I like to start working at an energetic trot as soon as possible. This allows the horse to gain his balance and gives me some energy to work with. I want the horse to move off from a squeeze from my legs (at first I might add a "click, click" sound like I used when longeing) from a halt to a walk and from a walk to a trot. If the horse goes faster than I want him to, I pretty much let him, just making sure that I go as fast as he does! I try not to discourage a horse from moving forward at the beginning. Whether you do this in a round pen or arena will depend on your level of experience.

Once the horse knows "forward", then you can start adding "straight". Directing a young horse from point A to point B can be funny! I know what you mean by wiggle worm. Your goal is to "catch the horse between the aids." What I mean is that your hands on the reins direct his head, neck, and front legs and your legs direct his hindquarters. When you are riding from one end of the arena to the other, pick a point at the far end and look at that point - don't look at your horse's neck or poll, which is a common tendency. If you project straight ahead, you will tend to go straight ahead. Make adjustments to your horse's wiggles using opening rein aids rather than direct rein aids. An opening rein signal is one where your hand moves out to the side - it is also called a leading rein because you lead the horse to the direction you want him to go. So if he is wiggling to the left and you want to straighten him out, you would move your right hand out to the right. This is assuming you are using a snaffle or bosal. (A direct rein aid is one where you move your hand back toward your hip bone and is suitable for horses with more training.)

While you are working on straight work, be sure you don't lose the forward movement.

Once the horse is going forward and straight, you want to concentrate on steadiness of rhythm and carriage. You want your horse to maintain a steady one-two, one-two rhythm at the trot, for example. When a horse's rhythm is more like one---------two; onetwo, onetwo, it means he has lost his balance momentarily and is trying to regain it. So work on sitting steady and straight in the saddle yourself to help your horse develop his balance. If his rhythm is quick but steady, that is better than if it is mostly slowish but unsteady. A quick but steady rhythm can be slowed down and will make a better slow, balanced rhythm. So don't be in a hurry to slow your horse down. Do it gradually, in degrees - the more in balanced he is, the more steady and fluid his movement will become.

After your horse travels forward, straight, and steady consistently, then it is time to add bending, flexing, and lateral work - and all those maneuvers and exercises that use those principles. But don't skip this early work because it is the basis of the more advanced work.

Have a great ride! Cherry Hill

For more information on mounted training, see Making Not Breaking. (

Dear Cherry,

I am a trail rider who rides in the arena 2 or 3 times a week. What kind of arena work is good for a trail horse?


Hi Bob,

To keep your trail horse legged up, focus on forward work with mild geometric patterns, such as figure 8's, serpentines and large circles.

The figure 8 is a simple exercise that combines straight and circular movements and allows you to practice a change of bend and a halt with plenty of preparation time. This exercise can help you develop good habits and coordination for more advanced exercises and work on the trail. (Note: The figure 8 is also a part of horsemanship, equitation, and reining patterns.)

The line between the 2 circles should be straight. It should not be a diagonal line that makes an X in the middle of the pattern. An X configuration is a lazy way to change direction in a figure 8 and "eats up" part of each circle. The flat line in the center is more correct and more difficult because it requires you to keep your horse in balance.

Begin at the center of the arena with your horse facing one of the long sides of the arena. Focus on a fence post or cone along the rail that you can refer to as the "center".
Look straight ahead and ride straight forward at a jog

After 1-2 strides, begin circling your horse to the right
Make a large circle that is uniformly round by keeping your aids consistent (ahead of time you might want to set out two cones to use as reference points for the center of each of the figure eight circles.)

When you are finishing up the first circle, prepare to change your aids to straight
Ride straight ahead 1-4 strides depending on the size of the circle
Change your horse's bend from right to left
Begin circling your horse the left. Be ready to catch the hindquarters with your right leg if they try to swing out of the new circle.
Make a large circle to the left that is uniformly round.
When approaching the close of the second circle, prepare to track straight ahead
Halt or continue the figure 8.

You can ride the figure 8 at the walk and canter/lope as well. If you ride at the lope, you will need to perform either a simple lead change, a flying lead change, or the second circle in counter canter.

At first, ride circles about 70 feet in diameter and as your horse develops balance and bend, you can decrease the size to 40 feet in diameter depending on the gait and the degree of collection you are asking for.

If your horse begins to anticipate the change of bend in the middle, simply add a second circle to the right (or left) before changing direction.

See you on the trail Bob!Cherry Hill

For more exercises, see 101 Arena Exercises.


Read all of the riding articles at Cherry Hill's Horse Information Roundup at:

That's it for this month.

Keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side!

Cherry Hill

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