Youngster Exercise Series – The Circle Challenge

Here’s another exercise that is a bit more challenging but excellent for a young horse to take on. I did this one with Cosmo before we went into complete lockdown in March. It was tough but very rewarding when we got it right.


  • Building topline
  • Encouraging self-carriage
  • Making your horse more sure-footed
  • Improving balance


For this exercise you’re going to want a large amount of space. I set mine up in the middle of the arena but it could be set-up at either end of the arena too.

For the Trot Poles:

  • Two sets of 3 x raised trot poles – 5 footsteps between each pole
  • Each set should be placed at opposite sides of a 10m circle

For the Canter Poles:

  • 4 x poles
  • Placed on a 20m circle at 3 – 6 – 9 – 12 as if on a clock face

You should place your canter poles around the outside of your trot poles.


Riding the Trot Poles:

To ride the trot poles you want to make sure you have a nice forward trot with a good even contact on the reins to help balance your horse.

  • Start by riding a circle around the outside of the trot poles, encouraging your horse to bend its body around your leg
  • Once you establish a nice even rhythm, ride your horse into the first set of trot poles, making sure to keep the bend over the poles. You may find that your horse will struggle the first few times over the poles but if you can maintain consistency in your rhythm and contact, they’ll get there themselves.
  • After doing the first set of poles on each rein a few times, its time to complete the circle and include your second set of poles. You may find the circle a bit tight initially but again, once you maintain a consistent rhythm, your horse should flow through both sets of poles.
  • This is quite a tough enough exercise for a young horse who is still developing their topline so be sure to give your horse plenty of breaks when doing this exercise.

For the Canter Poles:

The canter element of this exercise is much more simple but equally as challenging especially if you have a horse who struggles to hold themselves together in the canter.

  • Similar to the trot poles, start by riding a larger circle around the outside of the canter poles to help establish a rhythm. You want to settle your horse into a nice forward canter with a slight bend through their body.
  • Once you’re ready, start over your first pole focusing on maintaining your rhythm and keeping your horse up in your hands to encourage them off the forehand as you ride the full circle of poles.
  • Do this on both reins while making sure to give your horse plenty of breaks.

Check out a quick video of Cosmo giving this Circle Challenge a go!

I definitely found the trot pole element of this layout way more difficult than the canter poles but I felt both myself and Cosmo settled into it in the end and we got some really lovely results. Our biggest problem with canter work is that Cosmo tends to lean on the forehand quite a bit so I sometimes have a hard time keeping him up and light in my hands. I definitely felt an improvement by the time we finished up with this exercise though.

Thanks for reading,


Youngster Exercise Series – Straighten Out

As you may be realising, Cosmo has a bit of a straightness issue so I came up with this series of poles to help work on this problem. It’s relatively simple but enough for a young brain to get to grips with.


  • Straightness
  • Rhythm
  • Seeing a stride


For this exercise you’ll need pretty much your full arena and the following:

For the Trot Poles:

  • Two sets of 3 x trot poles – 4 and a half footsteps between each pole
  • A pair of straightening poles set up either side of both sets of trot poles

For the Canter Poles:

  • One set of canter poles – 6 strides, 4 large steps per stride
  • A pair of straightening poles at the start and end of the line
  • Two wings/blocks at the half way point down your line

Your trot poles should be set up on the long-sides, while your canter poles should be set up down the centreline.


The straightening poles within these layouts will ensure your horse goes over the poles as straight as possible however there are other things you can do to help get your horse there:

  • If your horse tends to drift to one particular side more than the other, then consider cutting your corner on your approach or turning a little later. This will help ensure you’re straight by the time you hit your poles.
  • Keep your hands wide to provide a type of tunnel contact between your hands and the horse’s mouth.
  • Focus on keeping even pressure on your horse’s sides with your legs.

Check out some GoPro footage of me and Cosmo giving the canter poles a go…

Cosmo’s weakest gait is canter so we can sometimes struggle to even get through a set of canter poles without breaking to trot but he did quite well with this one all things considered. I’ve definitely seen a big improvement in Cosmo’s straightness since starting these exercises so do give them a go if you’re having the same problems as me.

Thanks for reading,


Exercise 1 – Flat To The Mat

It has been some time since an exercise has been done here at No Bucking Way. I certainly feel a little rusty especially when it came to planning & thinking out some exciting exercises to set up & try out for you guys.

Don’t you worry though, I have decided to start the year with a lovely flatwork exercise. I struggle sometimes to stay concentrated whilst riding, especially during these dark evenings. I spend most of my time thinking about when I am going to be finished rather than the work I want to focus on with Dante in the arena.

Look no further, I have compiled this lovely exercise for you to try out. Of course as always it comes in sections, so keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know!

The Set Up

For this exercise, you will need 6 poles. See the image below as to how they should be laid out in your arena. If you can, try to keep one side of your arena free so that you have that extra bit of space when it comes to doing certain parts of the exercise.

The distance between the canter poles should be walked out with 10 footsteps between them. This worked well for Dante, but it can also be adjusted to suit your horse or pony by adding in or taking away a footstep.

The Benefits

Sharpens up your transitions

Improves your eye for a stride

Improves your horses balance & suppleness

Improves Flexability

How To Ride This Exercise?

Step 1: As always, we advise that a good warm up is done prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise I focused a lot on transition work with Dante before we began, also making sure he was moving forward from my leg. As you progress into this exercise you will see that it is all about Transitions in certain parts.

Leg Yielding. Focus on getting 2-3 steps from your horse

Step 2: The Leg Yield. Yes, I said it! I decided to challenge myself as well as you all with this one. I spend the guts of 15 minutes practicing this in walk around the arena on both reins. This really helped to supple & relax Dante before we got into serious business.

If you dont know the aids for leg yielding, see the link below! Dont forget if your horse struggles but manages to get one or two steps always remember to reward your horse! Small wins will give you big wins in the long run.

Steps For riding the perfect Leg Yield

Step 3: Once you have mastered your leg yield, it is then time to start putting some focus on your canter poles. You want your approach to be calm, collected & relaxed. And once you reach pole one you want a smooth canter all the way through until you land after pole 4. Try this a couple of times. Once your happy with how your horse is moving we can then begin to piece everything together.

Piecing your Leg yield & Canter together

Step 4: Lets get Down to business. Now that we have established some key components to our exercise from step 2 & 3, It is finally time to piece everything together. See the image to the left. In this you are putting together your leg yield, your canter & some pole work also.

Remember to sit calm, & really focus on using your legs for your transitions. Begin by leg yielding across the long side of your arena, once you hit the track remember to ride your horse straight & keep them moving forward. Once you reach your corner, in the image where it is marked with the red x, this is your spot for asking your horse up into canter. Continue to canter around your corner and over your single canter pole. This is a 10-15m circle. So sitting up tall as you ride this circle is important, not only to balance yourself, but to keep your horse balanced also.

Step 5: Once you are happy with the above, you are now ready to graduate on to the final & full “Flat to the Mat” exercise. This will incorporate everything, leg yielding, canter poles & your upward transitions. See below an image as to how you should ride it! Remember to sit quiet & remain quiet with your hands over your canter poles. One of my worst habits!

Once you are happy with how your horse is riding this exercise, remember to always leave your horse on a good note.

I found this exercise super productive & really made me focus during my riding sessions. Sometimes when you have a plan in place & pre plan your riding sessions, results really start to show.

Give it a go, & be sure to tag me in any videos you take of you doing this exercise. I unfortunately didn’t get any footage of this one, but I will be sure to take some in future. As for the name of this exercise, dont ask, Thinking of inventive exercise names is a serious down fall of mine!

Keep your eyes peeled, I have a lovely challenging jumping exercise coming up next, not to mention there are loads of poles involved. My favourite!

Until Next Time,


August Exercise – Attack Those Poles

It is safe to say that it has been quite some time since we posted an exercise for you guys to try out! With a lot of focus recently being put on our jumping, we have finally taken some time out to focus more on our pole work. This is mainly to focus on growing that hind end even more, and if you keep on reading transition work is still playing a huge part in our training schedule.

Keep scrolling to find out all about our “Attack Those Poles” exercise.

What Will you Need

To start you will like always need a fully cleared arena, or space in your field. You will need, 13 poles in total, then depending on if you wish to raise the poles, you will need cavalettis or as you can see from my picture I used potties to give them a slight raise!

For Dante I always do 4 & a half steps between regular trot poles, with 5 footsteps in between any raised poles. In between the split up trotting poles I walked out 13 and a half footsteps.

(This gave Dante 2 trot strides in between each set of trot poles)

As per the image below you will see how your arena should look when you are finished setting up.

What This Exercise Is Good For

  • Maintaining a Steady Rhythm
  • Perfecting upward & Downward transitions
  • Rider composure
  • Straightness
  • Building Your Horses Hind

Guide On How To Ride This Exercise

  • As always we recommend a good warm up for your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. This exercises has a lot of transition work involved, with a great mixture of Trotting & cantering.
  • I would recommend focusing on your 20metre circles, upward & downward transitions from trot to canter and again from canter to trot, you really want your horse moving from you leg, this will help set you & your horse up nicely before tackling this exercise.
  • To begin, start by tackling the exercise in sections. Start of with the diagram below, keep all your poles flat (not raised) so as to give your horse a chance to get properly acquainted with the poles. Don’t forget that if your horse is not used to this much pole work their muscles will fatigue a lot quicker.
  • Going diagonal to diagonal, go over the line of trot pole twice to three times on each rein. Remember you are focusing on keeping your horse straight, aiming for the centre of each trot pole, keeping your upper body still & hands quiet as you ride through. Your legs should be used to keep your horse moving forward and also used to stop your horse from drifting to the right or left of the center of the poles. Once you are happy with this you can then move on to the next stage.
  • It is now time to start thinking about your canter. You will see two canter poles placed across the opposite diagonal to your trot poles. Start by going through them once or twice of each rein to get the feel for the striding, I have walked out 2 strides in between each pole. You will also see that you have to canter between your two trot poles. This will help keep your horse straight and avoid them from drifting.
  • When you are happy with how your horse is working in the canter, then can you move to piecing the entire exercise together. See the image below.
  • Start by trotting over your poles, again, at this stage you can keep them all flat or you can begin to raise them depending on the horse. Once you are over your poles, at the Marked X on the diagram above, you then must transition into canter, cantering around to your canter poles across the diagonal. Keeping a smooth consistant canter here is key.
  • Once over the canter poles, when you reach your corner focus on transitioning down to trot. Again try to keep it as smooth as possible, not to interfere too much.
  • When you are happy with all of the above, you can then piece the entire exercise together. The flow is basically Trot poles, Canter, Canter Poles, Trot, Trot poles. It is all about the consistency in your rhythm whilst there are obstacles in the way, this should not effect the way you ride. See the image below as to how it should ride with the X’s marked as your points of transition.

I will advise, that this is quite a heavy exercise if you are doing it on a horse that is not used to such variety. I would recommend doing this exercise over 2 days as not to fatigue your horse. And trust me, Day 1 can be sloppy! It really opens your eyes to how much you move & adjust your body once you see an obstacle in the way when really you shouldn’t change anything at all.

Give it a go, & tag us in any videos that you take so I can see how you get on! I love watching everyone’s progress.

As always, thank you for reading, if you have any questions on this exercise be sure to drop us a DM!


March Monthly Exercise – Loop the Loop

When me and Coco were having some bucking issues a few weeks ago, I needed to find an exercise that I could use to keep Coco moving, listening and interested in the work I was asking her to do. This exercise was recommended to me by our very own Coach Sue Byrne who actually sent me the layout over a picture of chicken on a baking tray (no joke, see picture at the bottom of this post!).

What’s is this exercise good for?img_6766.jpg

  • Suppleness
  • Engaging your horse physically and mentally
  • Practicing flying changes
  • Rhythm
  • Straightness

How to Set it Up

This exercise is made up of a selection of trot poles and canter poles. You will need 8 poles all placed along the centre line of the arena. Starting at the top of the arena, place two trot poles, beside one of these poles place a single pole, beside that pole place another two trot poles, beside these poles place a single pole, finishing off with another two trot poles beside that single pole – see diagram for reference.

How to Ride it

In Trot:
  1. Starting at the top of the arena, trot across the first set of trot poles
  2. Track right and loop around to the next set of trot poles
  3. Track left and loop around to the last set of trot poles
  4. Track right and come up the centre line, staying between the poles
  5. Repeat this two or three times on each rein until you hit every set of poles in a steady rhythm
In Canter:
  1. Picking up canter at the bottom of the arena, canter across your first canter pole asking for a lead change over the pole
  2. Track left and loop around to the next canter pole, asking for a lead change over the pole
  3. Track right and come down the centre line, asking for a lead change at X and track left
  4. Repeat this two or three times on each rein, aiming for a clean lead change each time

Challenge Yourself

  • Step it up a notch by combining the trot and canter exercises. Ask for canter when you come off the centre line at the end of the trot exercise and start over your canter poles.
  • Test how well your horse is really listening to you by asking for canter after the first set of trot poles and come over the canter pole beside that set of poles, and then back to trot to take on the next set of trot poles and repeat the whole way down the set up.
  • One thing I love about this exercise is that it can be very easily turned into a jumping exercise and it becomes a whole new challenge for both horse and rider.


This was definitely one of the funner exercises I have done with Coco and it was perfect for settling her down and getting her listening to what I was asking her to do. Coco is the type of mare who needs to be kept busy, when she gets bored she likes to make her own fun and this is when the messing starts.


Give this a go and as always let us know how you get on.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. Check out Sue’s amazing drawing of this exercise on her tray of chicken! Yellow line is Trot, Blue line is Canter.