7/22 – Back to the Basics with Krista Wade – Take your Horse Off Auto Pilot


So many times I see people bring their horses out and just lope big arena sized circles to warm them up and exercise them. This is great, some of the time, but in order to make sure that my horse is paying attention to me and not just going on auto pilot, I need to change it up and put more variety into my exercising/warm ups to make sure my horse is using his body and listening to my cues.


Just like humans, horses are creatures of habit. When you come out to the arena and do the same routine day in and day out, it becomes monotonous to your horses. Soon they are looking over the fence at other horses, worrying about the sign on the fence and everything else except for what you are needing them to do.

This is when I start mixing it up with steering exercises. My favorite exercise is the “Cone to Cone” Exercise. It is also called the Shamrock Exercise because that is what the pattern will look like when completed. This exercise really helps with straight lines and steering on your horses. Along with this it will teach your horses to wait for the rider to tell them which way to go vs. taking matters into their own hands. Once you know the pattern, you will start mixing the turns up and constantly changing the pattern on this exercise based on the horse so it is never the same, therefore always keeping it interesting for your horse and making him be respectful of your cues.

Here is how it works:

You will start on a “right” hand pattern. This pattern can be done at the Trot and/or lope

  1. Start at the center cone. Trot/Lope to Cone “B” and then turn right, rounding the corner to cone “C”.
  2. At cone “C” You will turn right again and trot in a straight line thru the center to Cone “D”
  3. You will then turn right again and return to cone “B”
  4. At Cone “B” You will turn right and pass back thru the center on a straight line to cone “E”
  5. At Cone “E” you will turn right again and go back to Cone “D”
  6. At Cone “D” you will turn right again and pass back thru the center on a straight line to cone “C”
  7. At Cone “C” you will turn right again and return to Cone “D”
  8. At Cone “D” you will turn right and return to the center cone
  9. Continue this pattern until you and your horse feel comfortable and then you will change and make all LEFT hand turns at the end cones
  10. Finally once you are comfortable and can “See” the pattern going left and right you will mix it up and when heading thru the center cone if you feel your horse leaning one way or the other when you get to the end cone you go the OPPOSITE way the horse wants to go – this will help ensure that the horse waits for you to make the decision as to which way to go. You will in return travel straighter lines and the horse will stay more balanced because he won’t be leaning.

Tips: Keep your eyes up! Always be looking a Cone ahead of where you are. This will make a HUGE difference on how your horse travels and how you ride. It will help you relax, and through your body language the horse will know where we need to go. If we are not confident as to where we are going next then the horse will lack confidence and be confused as well! This is a small detail that makes a huge difference!

When doing this exercise at the lope, do not worry about leads at first. Most horses assume that just because they are on the right lead they are going to go right. Therefore they started diving their shoulders to the right and cutting corners. If they lean right you go left. This will help the horse travel straighter and keep their shoulders balanced in their leads as they will not know if you are going to go right or left.

On the straight lines keep your horse on a loose rein. Do not hang on the horse’s mouth the whole time. Pitch him away on the straight lines and then steer him around the corners. This will help the horse steer better as he will become more sensitive to your hand cues and it will help him relax.

Right Hand Pattern:


July 22, 2013 |

Comments are closed.

Copyright 2024 TeamRoper.com. All Rights Reserved.