That said....i wanted to share some winter exercises that I do with my students, as well as get ideas from all of you guys too. What do you guys do to beat the winter blues (for those of you where it's cold/icy/rainy this time of year). Share away!!
Something my dressage trainer had me working on that I love is a variation on the serpentine. Do straight is canter, corners of the serpentine (the curved parts) are trot. Then vice versa where you do straight is trot and corners are canter. Itís a great way to work on both straightness and bending as well as precision in your transition and accuracy in the timing of your gaits and movements. Itís a lot harder than it sounds and youíll find each horse is different. Some horses are better with cantering in the corners but harder to canter on the straight b/c they tend to favor one side for example. Use the exercises to identify your horseís weaknesses at each gait (you can do this and incorporate walk/trot variations, walk/canter variations and what not as well), and then make the horse work through their weakness.
For example if you have a horse that tends to throw their hips in at the canter to one side, make them canter the straight with a focus on riding straightness through the entire length of the serpentine, then downward transition to the trot for the corner as a way to rebalance your horse and prepare for a clean, straight canter transition out of the corner. As he gets better at that, then swtich to just bending and not leaning in the corners at the canter and focus on lengthenings and shortenings on the serpentines. A 3 loop serpentine would be long trot/canter corner/short trot/canter corner/long trot/canter final corner. Alternate to do then short/long/short in the trot as well. Thereís a lot of variations that makes this interesting. The other thing to do is use ground poles placed at the top of the arch of each corner and the middle of the straight of each serpentine and eventually work to an all canter with changes serpentine using the poles for lead cues.
Finally, another fun exercise is jumping a course of ground poles. Use just the ground poles to work on rhythm and eye, and learn to adjust and feel your distances even when there isnít a physical fence there. Itís a great intro to more complicated stride work without the need for additional challenge of actual jumping.
Annnd...(i know I said finally already but I just remembered this one - hereís a super challenging exercise that combines a lot of the above theory, from master trainer jim wofford:
gymnastics on the flat to improve flexability