Just to add to the serpentines/figure of 8's - they're great only if you are working the horse effectively. If you're just riding it's head or allowing it to slop along on the forehand falling on a shoulder, you're not going to achieve anything other than maybe wearing the horse out.
Make sure you're riding forward, make sure you have an immediate response to your leg from the horse and an immediate response to your seat to come back to you.
You say exercises other than circles, well if your horse 'can't' bend, exercises on circles are going to be the best way to 'fix' this - trying to bend the horse on a straight line is a **** sight harder and more advanced than trying to teach bend on a circle.
I would begin on the ground, standing at the horse's shoulder and asking it to bring it's head around to the side. Only ask it so far as the horse can hold the bend itself, if you're holding the horse's head there it is not doing anything! Repeat this 3 times on each rein before you get in the saddle, then repeat under saddle.
At walk, allow the horse a fairly long rein and warm up on a figure of 8 or 3 loop serpentine, asking the horse for an active, marching walk while stretching the head and neck down and forwards.
Begin to incorporate some leg yield into your figures. So say you're on a figure of 8, ask the horse to leg yield outwards on the open sides of the figure. Usually leg yield is performed without bend, but for these exercises, I like to add an element of bend and increased flexion while on the circles, to increase suppleness and bend.
Repeat this at trot before starting to pick up your reins a little more to ask for a little more contact.
There are so many things you can do to help with bend, just use your imagination but please keep it on circles for now. Once bend on a circle is established, I will move to short bursts of straight lines using an exercise my coach taught me which moves the neck and shoulders to the inside as though heading onto a circle, then pushing them back over onto the track again with the shoulder reaching the track first. Shoulder in and traver are good bend exercises, but again, they are a little more advanced and come in down the track.
Thank you so much! That's actually exactly what I was doing that makes me feel better. This was my first ride on her like an evaluation..and the evaluation is she doesn't bend :) She's an ottb and she canters to the left well but to the right..its funny she points to the left and canters diagonally to the right. Her owner has no idea what to do and I'm trying to work with her. He had no idea she wasn't bending..if that offers any insight. She's a great horse and really calm and patient. I was ust looking to see if there were any other things I could do to. We did some trot work to warm up and when her muscles were loose we stretched her neck under saddle. I'll add it on the ground as well. And she DID improve after stretching. I'll just keep up with it. Thanks! Posted via Mobile Device
I wouldn't even worry about canter right now until she is willing to relax her whole body, swing her back and develop more lateral suppleness.
Another one you can do is again to work on a figure of 8 - this is going to take a bit of explaining so bare with me!
So work on a figure of 8 with the centre point on the E-B line of the arena. Say you are going around on the right rein circle, as you approach the open side of the circle, flex to the outside (left) and then ask for the shoulders to follow the flexion, riding onto a 10m circle to the left. Near the end of your 10m circle, flex to the right again for a few strides before continuing back on the right rein of your large figure of 8. Repeat to the left until you are getting them perfectly on each rein.
Then, depending on which shoulder your horse prefers to weight, you can do small figure of 8's within the large figure of 8. So as described above, ride your large circle on the right rein, as you get to the open side, flex to the left, ride a 10m circle to the left, flex to the right a few strides early etc. But this time, instead of going back to the large right circle, go straight onto a right 10m circle. Leg yield out of the circle and back to your large figure of 8. Repeat on both reins.
Another figure of 8 leg yielding exercise - ride your figure of 8 again over the E-B line. Ride your left rein circle, and as you're coming through the centre to change rein, ride leg yield to the left off your right leg for a few strides before continuing onto the right rein.
You can mix and match all of these exercises, as I said in my first post, be creative!
Thank you everyone that's really informative and I understand what your saying about flexing in the center of the figure 8.
I'm not going to canter until her trot is a lot nicer, I'm all about taking it slow and easy. It was just my first ride on her and I wanted to see what she knew.
I'm really eager to work with her she's great...her father is an idiot.. he asked if I thought she would ride doubles...DOUBLES?| When I asked why he said to impress a girl..so he wants to put her in his western saddle and him ride behind the saddle -_- she's 4 and pretty underweight with no top line...she was ordered 6 months stall rest because she injured her back..so he wants to put 2 people in a (heavier compared to english) saddle on a skinny thoroughbred with no topline..and a baby to boot. I told him absolutely not and if he does I'm not riding her anymore. I don't want to be blamed for making her sore, I'll ride my own horse at that..and after explaining all the HEALTH risks he still was saying maybe just walking. I flat out said she has every right to buck him off and if she does he has NO right to punish her. He finally said maybe she's not a chick magnet..I said no she's a horse.
Sorry for my rant I just couldn't believe he asked then persisted.. Posted via Mobile Device