Flatwork is an essential element of competitive horseback riding, referring to the portion of the ride that takes place on a flat and even surface. During a normal equestrian event, horses will have to perform a series of jumps. In between and around these jumps are flat portions of ground where additional tricks and movements will be executed. Flatwork exercises will help improve your riding on these portions of the course.
Fives and Fives
This flatwork exercise is designed to improve your balance as well as encourage calmness on the horse. On a circle track, begin cantering for five full strides. After five strides, shift your horse into a walk for an additional five strides. Return back to the canter, repeating this pattern for five full circuits on each one of your reins before completing the exercise. In addition to balance, this exercise will improve your horses ability to follow direction.
Direction Change Circles
Performing direction change circles on an open course will help improve your horse's reaction time as well as your angles toward the jumps. Start by trotting with your horse for 5 yards. From here, slowly lead your horse into a circular turn by pulling down on one rein. Pull your horse out of the circle in the opposite direction, making a figure eight with your horse before stopping. Continue to make figure eights, increasing the speed with which you do them as you improve.
If you find your horse pulling you through the course, focus on down transitions in an effort to gain control of your horse, especially on the flats of the course. Begin down transitions by moving from a trot to a half halt. Perform the half halt by lowering your hands, bringing the horses head down so it cannot resist with its jaw. As your horse improves, move from a half halt to a full halt, transitioning into it from a full canter.
Instigate a Walk
If your horse's reaction time and forward motion is lacking, it is important to perform a flatwork exercise that will help you instigate a walk. To start, begin in a working trot, nudging the horse with both legs to transition it into a lengthened trot. While it is easier to move your horse into a higher gear while it is already in motion, you want it to learn that pressure from both of your legs will result in additional motion. As you improve, you can eventually get your horse to move from a static position into a walk each time you tap it.