January Ultimate Exercise – “Figure Of Death”

Wow!! What a reaction to our first “Ultimate series” exercise! It looks like we weren’t the only ones looking to up our game & get right back into work for the New Year!

This weeks exercise, now that you have hopefully mastered the trot we decided to focus in on our canter work. Luckily for me I have both Coco & Dante to trial this exercise on and what a difference both of them gave me!

Keeping a persistant rhythm & keeping the same pace towards the end of this exercise was key, keep reading to see how we approached this weeks Figure of Death!

What You Will Need?

A lot of stamina & energy for starters & patience!!

You will physically need yet again an arena, or an open field with 6 ground poles. The distance between the square of poles should be 9(pony)10(horse) footsteps. But if you want to cheat making sure they are placed exactly parallel to each other as per the diagram below & you should be fine (unless you are riding a very small pony!)

Make sure you have cleared your arena of any other wings/poles as you will need all the space you can get!

What This Exercise Is Good For?

  • Keeping a consistant rhythm
  • Keeping a consistant, even contact with your horse
  • Flying changes
  • Control of pace
  • Improves your eye for a stride

How To Ride This Exercise?

  • Start your warm up as normal, keeping in mind not to over do it, this exercise is a work out in itself! Try 5 minutes walk on each rein getting them loose, followed by trot work incorporating some 20 metre circles, and finally begin with your canter. We focused a lot this week on pushing for a long stride on the long side of the arena & holding for a short canter on the shorter side of the arena. This will get your horse listening, helping you when you need to push or hold on your approach to poles when needed.
  • Begin this exercises by using the two single ground poles, to focus on your 20metre canter circles , once you are happy with how your horse is approaching them & have done them on both reins you may begin to start the full exercise. See The Diagram Below
Start the exercise by doing sections first, once happy with your approach then piece it all together.
  • Picking up canter, make sure you have a forward rhythm keeping in mind your focus is to keep the exact same rhythm throughout the entire exercise (this is why riding it in sections to begin with works wonders!)
  • Riding your 20metre circle first over the single ground pole, continue to ride out into your corner looking for your approach into your square. The use of your corners & your arena is vital!
  • Continue by approaching your square, this is where it may begin to get tricky. Some horses will ride it as if they are approaching a fence so their canter may go up a pace or two. Here you are trying to sit, hold and maintain a steady pace.
  • Once you approach the square, your aim is to get your flying change over the second ground pole of the square, not the first! (This mistake was made a few times!!) Once you land over the second pole hopefully on the correct lead continue to canter out into your corner. Don’t let your horse cut the corner or turn, get rid of those bad habits!!
  • Once you have mastered this then can you proceed to piece the entire exercise together. Don’t worry if it takes a few tries, remember you are asking a good bit from your horse. See the diagram below
  • Do keep in mind, if you complete the entire exercise once & your horse has done it well, stop & reward him! Even end your session there on that good note, last thing you want is to over do it and end up with a fed up horse! Take the wins when you can.
It’s not as difficult as you think! It is quite rewarding when you complete the entire figure of 8 loop!

How To ask for a Flying Change (left to right)

Sitting tall & quiet in the saddle, wrap your right leg around the girth this will keep your horse moving forward when being asked to change, moving your left leg behind the girth you are giving the signal for the opposite hind leg to strike into the lead. Keeping a tight contact on the left rein, softening the right to give your horse freedom to change forward. 

There you have it the “Figure of Death” I would be lying if I said this exercise was easy, it certainly was not! I was so close to giving up on Dante, his brain just couldn’t seem to process it first time round, but persistance was key, never give up!

Coco was the dream riding this, she is quite compact & holds herself together much better than Dante does, she was quite easy to control around all the corners, and way easier to hold for the shorter & longer canter strides I needed.

If you are finding this exercise difficult, stick to Riding the exercise section by section each day, your horse will begin to understand & you will get the results you want over time, I promise!

As always, pop over to our Instagram to have a look at our attempts at this exercise!

Until next time,


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