Serpentine Exercises

Serpentine Exercises

We all get into ruts sometimes. If you are bored of riding the perimeter of the arena, here are some serpentine exercises to keep time in the arena interesting and progressive. These serpentine exercises will especially help horses who are rushy, anxious, and who have trouble with lope transitions. For the sake of description I will use a dressage court as a basic arena setup. Follow along on the draft of a Cowboy Dressage court, which is a modified Dressage court. Remember to make your loops full, instead of going diagonally to each letter. Refer to the pictures here for examples of 10 m and 20 m circles, and shallow and full loop serpentines.

Horse and rider trotting in serpentine.

Warm up Serpentine

A good warm up to start with is a simple four loop serpentine. This can also help to settle a horse if anxious, just repeat the loops until they are relaxed. You can do this at a walk or a trot. Starting on the left rein at the F begin to serpentine to the E, changing bend and diagonal (if applicable) in the middle of the arena. From the E loop to the M and continue to the H. Repeat on the opposite side of the arena looping from H-B-K. From K continue to F and go diagonally to H. Repeat this exercise going the other way, starting at M-E-F and from K-B-H. From H continue to M and go diagonally across the arena to K.

Shallow Serpentine

This three loop shallow serpentine is great way to practice changing bend. It is easiest to get the full benefit at a trot, posting or sitting. Just remember to always change diagonals when you change bend. Starting at F make your first loop to X, changing from left bend to right bend. From the X loop to the M, changing bend from right to left. Continue from M to H and repeat on opposite side, H-X-K. From F go diagonally across arena to H and repeat from M-X-F and then from K-X-H. Go diagonally across arena from M-K.

Serpentine with Lope

Horse and Rider loping in circle.

Now that you’re all warmed up and have been practicing bend, it is time for some loping. These serpentine exercises are great for horses that have trouble taking a nice lead departure, have trouble taking their lead, or are rushed and anxious in the lope. Starting at F make your large serpentine pattern again going from F-E-M. At M take your left lead. Don’t worry if your horse doesn’t lope instantly, this exercise will help teach them to transition and lope calmly, eventually they will be able to lope off more promptly.

Lope one 20 m circle, or one circle at that end of the arena, and transition back to trot around M, continuing your serpentine at H. Loop from H-B-K. At K take your left lead once more and lope another circle. Transition back to trot around K, and go diagonally across arena from F-H. At M start serpentine pattern again M-E-F. At F transition to lope on right lead, lope on circle and transition back to trot around F. Loop from K-B-H. H transition lope right lead and lope one circle. Transition back to trot and go diagonally across arena from M-K.

Shallow serpentine with Counter Trot and Canter

This serpentine exercise will help the rushy horse and help create bend and better steering. Do this exercise at a trot, until the lope cue. Starting at F begin your shallow serpentine changing bend to X. At X stay on right bend and loop to M. At M go onto 10 m counter trot circle and before you get back to M, leg yield to the rail. You should still have your right bend and once you get to the rail, or just before, transition into lope and lope down to F. You can continue to lope a 20 m circle and then stop, or you can stop and rest, then go to the other side of the arena and repeat the exercise again. At K loop to X changing into left bend. At X do not change bend and loop to H. H 10 m circle counter trot, leg yield back to the rail and transition into lope.

Comments are closed.

Horse related activities are inherently dangerous and caution should be used at all times.