Do you ever get stuck in the same rut ride after ride? It is true that finding a routine is a good idea because it gives you and your horse a sense of structure that you can build upon over time.
But there are times when you want to spice things up before you pack it up!
Use the 10/5 Challenge when:
- you're both done with that 50th loop around the rail and want to do something completely "off the wall" (pun intended!)
- you feel that everything went right in the ride and there's still more left in you and your horse for a bang-up last effort
- you want to get the kinks out and release tension in you and your horse
- you want to develop hind end engagement and larger hind end strides
- your horse is feeling a little lethargic and "uninspired"
- your horse is too pumped up and needs to put his energy somewhere
- you want to fine-tune your aids and transitions
- you want to play a little with a "last dance" before you're done for the day
In any case, this exercise will help both you and your horse work out of your tightness. It encourages your horse to loosen over the top line, work out his balance and engagement, and in general, become better able to work through any transition.
The 10/5 Challenge
The idea is pretty simple. You want to do 10 strides of one thing and then 5 strides of something else.
- 10 strides canter/5 strides trot
- 10 strides left and 5 strides right
- 10 strides canter/5 strides walk
- 10 strides leg yield/5 strides shoulder-in
There really are an infinite of variations you can use.
But I love the first one the most, especially for beginner to intermediate horse and riders, so let's break that one down more for an example.
The 10 Strides Canter/5 Strides Trot Challenge
Go into a canter. Make sure you have a "decent" canter to start - encourage your horse onward if at all possible.
2. Count strides.
The idea is to hit the transition on that 10 mark, and be absolutely picky about changing gaits in the 10th stride.
3. Transition to trot.
You might have to really prepare for this transition at first. Chances are, your horse will not be expecting such a downward transition so soon, so be ready to reinforce your asking aids as soon as you can. The idea is to stay in that 10 stride number. So be picky.
4. Transition to canter.
But watch out! Don't "sit" on your laurels! Those 5 strides are over before you know it, and you have got to get back into the canter on the fifth trot stride!
And there is the real challenge. This exercise requires you to be sharp, accurate and physically in sync with your horse. The quickness of the transitions will jolt you into a higher level of accuracy and timing. The physicality of the transitions will have you both huffing and puffing in no time. Just remember to keep breathing! You might solicit a nice body-shaking snort from your horse in the process. That is a good sign.
5. Do it again!
The first time is probably going to be the easiest for a while. The next bunch of tries will really highlight the areas that need to come together for a better transition. As your horse starts to realize that there will be more and more transitions, he may go through some tension and resistance before he can gather up his strength and balance to be able to smoothly make so many transitions.
You might discover a few issues as well! Initially, the transitions come up very quickly. You might feel overwhelmed and thrown off balance a bit. Keep at it. If you find yourself not making the 10 strides, do 12. But aim for 10. Figure out how to adjust your timing for the transitions. You might have to do the "ask" for both the upward and downward several strides before.
Practice. Stick with the program 10, 20 times even if things don't go well. You will get better at it and your horse will become more balanced. Things will start falling together. The next time you try this, you might discover that the horse has an easier time with the transitions and responds more smoothly and efficiently to the aids.
Of all the exercises I've used, (click here if you'd like to see more of these sort of ideas in my first book) I'd recommend this one the most for anyone to try at any level. It works well with an advanced horse/rider combination as well as for the beginner rider or horse. You can make it a very basic exercise of one simple transition or complicate it as much as you would like. If the canter/trot is too simple, move onto something that challenges both you and your horse. Do the transitions while you change directions. Change leads and then break to the trot. The variations are limitless!
If you have tried the 10/5 Challenge, let us know in the comments how it worked for you. What went well? What problems did you run into?
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