Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

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exvet
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Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby exvet » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:15 pm

I'm curious what exercises do you like that when done correctly reliably encourages and helps maintain longitudinal and lateral suppleness? My regular routine typically incorporates a lot of forward and back, transitions within and in between the gaits going both directions. I like to work on serpentine lines and do a fair amount of shoulder in, traver and renver at the walk and trot and soon will be introducing more lateral work in the canter. I don't school my tests. I do like to mix things up and prevent too much anticipation. I'm sure there are some good exercises that I've had introduced to me in the past for the same purpose that I have forgotten or am over looking.

At the show last weekend (rode second level tests 1 & 2 both days, videos posted under Junior's thread) we did okay but the comments were strongly echoed throughout - develop lateral and longitudinal suppling for better scores. The tight back tension monster was definitely the monkey on our back. Riding at home or at the barn where I take lessons, we're able to work through this and get some really nice stuff. In the warm-up on the second day I was a bit more successful in maintaining Junior through and over his back with only occasional stiffening of the jaw. My last test I had a 'better horse' with respect to really coming through over his back except when the transitions started coming one after another and then he decided he just couldn't do it to the degree I was demanding and tightened his neck and back again. I had spent the warm up riding a series of 10 meter circles in both directions and lots of serpentine lines which I think helped that test; but, if you guys have any exercises that you use in schooling and especially while warming up for a show please share.

I am greatly interested in hearing from those of you who also ride shorter back 'fire plug' types. Junior has a decent length of rein for a welsh cob so I do find that focusing on trying to lengthen his neck in everything I do helps but we still lack the lateral suppleness when he starts to brace or clench one side of this mouth or the other. I realize that it's all part of the training process and he's still developing his strength and comfort level to handle all of the demands at the same time; but, he's a lot like my Monty who found some exercises more 'soothing' when things got really tight between the ears and all down the spine so-to-speak ;)

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby Chisamba » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:58 pm

I am a huge fan of good quality turns up the centerline. So ,1/2 a ten m circle followed by straight and forward. I change it up by turning from various places on the rail. Sometimes I will add a bit of lateral work from the center line.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby StraightForward » Sat Mar 21, 2020 3:08 am

I'm nowhere near your level, but have been doing a lot of walk lateral work with Annabelle to get her suppled up. One pattern I've been liking is riding CSI around the short side, then straighten and LY towards centerline, then develop bend to the new direction, ride a few steps of SI and then HP. If there is still room, you can ride a half volte back to the rail. I really like this one because of all of the progressive changes of bend.
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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby blob » Sun Mar 22, 2020 1:39 am

Here's one of my favorite exercises:

At C trot a 20 meter circle left, continue down the rail. At E do a half 10 meter circle left and ride a diagonal line back to H to change directions. At C ride a 20 meter circle right, continue down the rail. At B do a half 10 meter circle right and ride a diagonal line back to M to change directions. Rinse and repeat. (obviously this can be done at either end of the arena or without a dressage arena).

I like the exercise as is for warm up, especially on hotter horses because the repetition of the pattern usually steadies the horse. I also like it because it's very very adaptable. You can vary it to be more than a warm up exercise and can increase the degree of difficulty or add in dimensions to get more longitudinal suppleness. Some of the variations I like to play with:

Instead of a diagonal line out of the half 10 meter, ride a leg-yield or HP
Do a trot lengthening on the diagonal line out of the half 10 meter
Do stretch trot on the circle at C
Pick up canter for the circle at C

exvet
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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby exvet » Sun Mar 22, 2020 2:13 am

Thanks guys! Keep them coming. I worked on some of the suggestions today. I have no idea when we'll get to show again but my goal is to be able to go to the next show and reduce the tension monster by at least 50% ;)

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby piedmontfields » Sun Mar 22, 2020 3:39 pm

Shoulder-in to renvers and repeat is my bread and butter go to for my mare's tight back (in part because her SI area is especially tricky with her conformation). I do this at all three gaits. If she were a human that I was teaching in a yoga class, I would always warm her up with side-bending/opening her ribs, if that gives you a visual :-)

Another very easy exercise I need to revisit is to head down centerline, do a 10 m circle to the right, then shoulder in a few steps, then change bend and 10 m circle left, then shoulder in a few steps and repeat to the right and then the left again. I find this exercise especially helpful when I'm having any half halt or rushing issues (which, given the hormones flowing through my mare right now, is why I think I need to revisit it!).

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby khall » Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:41 pm

I use lateral work on bending lines a good bit with my short coupled moose of a horse. Rip is not only short coupled but wide load as well. He is not the the most supple of horses so I use steep bending line lateral work.

This steep: https://youtu.be/fcXIhaA6sSw at 1:23 and 2:10 it really supples the hips of the horse which is what Rip needs. Then to encourage the lift of the sling I use CSI in varying steepness. Anywhere from 45 to 90 deg depending on the horse. And for even more engaging exercises do these into the bend i.e. HI or renvere bending. I am a strong believer in asking the horse to change bend and change flexion in lateral work.

I also think transitions within the lateral work is HUGE! Dresseur and tsavo really got me started doing this. Being able to WT in SI and HI and TC or WC in SI or HI is quite illuminating.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby Dresseur » Mon Mar 23, 2020 2:28 pm

Exvet, this may or may not apply to you, but maybe there's something that will spark something. I'm bored WFH, so this may be more of a ramble lol.

So, Miro presents some unique challenges - he is flexible in his body, but in a way that allows him to escape true bending. He can just sort of collapse a shoulder, or slide out from under you. He also is tricky in his neck - it's very thick, and he likes to suck it back into his body in a friesian sort of way. So in those ways, he's stiff. He won't readily offer true bend and if you put your leg on to ask for bend, he will start screwing with the tempo, or suck his neck back and drop contact, so he isn't really stretching into the outside rein. He also has extreme flexibility in the LS joint - so he comes WAY under... but doesn't really carry weight. So halts stagger a bit, he drops the shoulder down to avoid weighting the hind etc.

So, we do a bunch of different things to help this - sometimes this happens together, sometimes all at once.

Serpentines - I always warm up with serpentines at this point, getting him to change the bend. If I feel a collapse or if he stiffens against my hand or inside leg, I do a 10-12 meter circle to stand him back up.

Circles, lots and lots and lots of circles. I circle going into corners, exiting corners, a few times down the long sides, on the short sides, circles that interrupt the shoulder in and haunches in - you get the picture. The feeling i want is if I squeeze my fingers on the inside rein, and put my inside leg on to ask him to bend, he has to smoothly come around.

Lots of hh - reach to the bit - basically testing whether or not he will follow my hand.

Lots of transitions - in lateral work, down the long side, down the short side - I mix these up a lot. I do transitions as pauses, I do them as full trot/halts, I do them as trot/walks, and I do them as trot/halt/reinback and the schaukel. In the reinback, he gets stuck doesn't keep a diagonal pair and swings crookedly - so I know he's getting softer when he keeps the shoulder up, doesn't come as far under behind, and I don't feel a huge drop in the hindquarters in the transitions - and that he holds weight and keeps supporting my seat with his hind legs and keeps a clean diagonal pair.

For lateral work, we slowed the tempo down for him, but he has to keep the tempo we asked for. We are also pushing him for more bend than is needed to show him the range of motion, and he has to finish the bend - meaning in haunches in for instance, he can't hang stiffly on the inside rein, and I have to feel bend behind the saddle, and I have to be able to smoothly go into a 10-12 meter circle with no hiccuping or loss of rhythm. I also ask for different degrees of bend and flexion within the movement so that he doesn't get stuck. Right now, he has the bend, but we can't "drive" certain movements like half pass or haunches in. Shoulder in we can start to drive at this point - meaning ask for a bit more cadence and expression for a few steps at a time.

Walk piris - these were huge for him because he wants to get stuck, and he wants to suck in the neck. We keep these very large, are insistent on tempo and do these out of haunches in so that the first step is under, not out. Because he is so tricky in the neck, I have to have the feeling that he's doing an extended walk and reaching toward the bridle, while his hind keeps moving - otherwise, he tries to brace and get friesan-y in the neck. This all translates into the canter working piris.

We also introduced the idea of passage to him. Because of his predilections, he will NOT be learning piaffe first. He'll grow roots. So, the idea, and I want to stress that this is not passage or anything like it - just a feeling that he comes back and lifts in the shoulder for a step or two - is meant to teach him gears in the trot and that he has to keep his neck out and telescoped to the bit. So, the only rule is that he has to keep trotting and then I half halt until I feel a moment or two of suspension and lift (the naked eye won't even really see it) and we move on.

So, I don't know. Maybe something in here helps.

OH! Edited to add - we tried him in drop noseband thinking that he may enjoy having freedom in he upper part of his jaw. The drop is LOOSE, no strapping his jaw down and while we may be in a honeymoon stage - he felt amazing in the drop - much less stiffening in his jaw overall.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby tlkidding » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:54 am

As Dresseur suggested, to really test if my warm up has achieved enough suppleness, transitions in SI are my go to. I also will change between LY and HP and SI and renvers to test if my connection is real or if he's just faking a position. I do a lot of true bend and counter flexion in the warm up because my horse likes to lock and drop right in front of the withers and the base of the neck.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby exvet » Tue Mar 24, 2020 6:51 pm

Thank you again for all the ideas. I've been incorporating many of them in our work and per my instructor/coach today things are getting better. Will continue to hone our connection and engagement while trying to maintain suppleness in the weeks to come ;)

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby Dresseur » Tue Mar 24, 2020 11:43 pm

Let us know what you find that works for your guy!

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby piedmontfields » Wed Apr 01, 2020 11:38 pm

Exvet, thanks for this great thread and for sharing your rides! Many of us are living through you now ;-) I'm riding a little...mainly because I have a quiet barn situation at the moment and a good horse. And I'm keeping this thread and others on public safety in mind!

Another general thought---I have to warm up my rather hot, tight little bull fighting-war horse (Lusitano x Trak) mare in a rounder trot frame (after 10-15 minutes of walking) than ideal. But this rounder frame prepares her for more proper work. If I didn't do this, I would start trot work without a good connection. I can vary the canter frame quite a bit in warm-up and keep a good connection, but not the trot. The solid trot connection in different frames comes later.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby exvet » Wed Apr 01, 2020 11:55 pm

I'm really finding that 10 meter circles are our friend and SI, counter SI, traver on the 10 meter circles seem to help a lot. I have done far more 'stretchy' canter which seems to be helping. The main thing I've discovered is that I thought Junior was accepting the half-halts but he really wasn't. I've found a new gear to power him up without him running off or speeding up and then really establish the half-halt within the connection, release, repeat. My half-halts are a combination of seat and through the connection/use of hand which I think I've found the sweet spot at least for Junior at second level.

We went trail riding today. While I usually ride in my western saddle when we trail ride, this time I tacked up in my dressage saddle and much of the ride was measured marching walk to free walk trying to establish the swing in the back with slower front legs and reaching hind legs. I also did a lot of leg yield back and forth as well as SI and traver. The trail ride gave us the essence of forward in the walk that was needed and all the while Junior was required to maintain a proper connection and coming through over his top line for much of the ride.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby lorilu » Sun Apr 05, 2020 12:41 am

Exvet, thanks for starting this. For me and Bravo, we get better suppleness when I stick to the walk (all the lateral work already mentioned especially SI-reveres, stretchy to collected, and alternating between LY and HP and SI. I then go to canter and leave the trot for later. A bit of forward and back, a nice pushing deep round canter, CC half circles, something my trainer calls a plie (ly in canter?). I find that if i go to trot right after walking he tightens his back. Its always better after the canter work.

And a question. I also have been told I need to slow the front legs so i can get a better overstride..but i am really unsure just how to do that.. Can you explain? Thx

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby exvet » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:12 am

For me I have found that I am better able to slow the front legs by counting the strides and determining the tempo I want in my head and then keeping it - at walk using my seat, at trot using my post, at canter - we don't have a problem. Then I use my lower leg to engage and ask for more from the hind leg - more stride, more lift etc. Hope that helps.

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Re: Favorite exercises to encourage and maintain both longitudinal and lateral suppleness

Postby lorilu » Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:16 am

that makes perfect sense..... "slowing the front legs" made me think about the front when I should really be influencing the hind legs!


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