Intermediate English Exercises

Intermediate English Exercises

by Cherry Hill

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With this pocket-sized guide in hand, you'll find it easy to develop and perfect your English riding skills. Cherry Hill's exercises will help you learn to hone balance and precise use of aids, improve bending, polish transitions, develop lateral work, and begin collection. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603428248
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 01/05/1998
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 32
File size: 764 KB

About the Author

Cherry Hill is an internationally known instructor and horse trainer and has written numerous books, including 101 Arena Exercises for Horse & Rider, Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage, How to Think Like a Horse, What Every Horse Should Know, and Horse Care for Kids. Visit her at, where you can find information on her books, DVDs, and horsekeeping knowledge.

Read an Excerpt



Change of Rein in a Circle

• Posting trot a large circle (66 feet) to the left.

• At the point of the circle closest to the long side of the arena, turn into the circle and trot a 33-foot half circle to the left.

• As you finish the half circle, you should be approaching the center of the large circle.

• Change from left bend to right bend.

• Change diagonals.

• Trot a 33-foot half circle to the right.

• Rejoin the original large circle, now tracking right.

You can practice the pattern at a walk, making "deeper" dips in place of the half circle, giving you a longer diagonal between the two half circles so you have plenty of time to change your bend properly. You can also practice this exercise at a sitting trot.

Be careful not to leg yield as you change bend. Keep a true linear alignment.



Half Halt

• Trot

• Corner

• Halt

• Trot

• Halt

• Trot

• Half halt

• Trot

• Half halt

• Trot

A half halt is a preparatory set of aids that simultaneously drives and checks the horse. It is a means of momentarily re-balancing the horse, elevating the forehand, increasing hindquarter engagement, evening an erratic rhythm, slowing a pace, and reminding the horse not to lean on the bit or rush. A half halt is a momentary holding, immediately followed by a yielding (within one stride or a split second). This results in a moment of energized suspension with a listening and light horse.

How to Apply a Half Halt

Think. Apply seat, leg, and hand aids. Yield. A half halt is an almost simultaneous application of the following with an emphasis on the seat and legs, and a de-emphasis on the hands:

* Keep upper body straight or slightly back with elevated sternum.

* Maintain deep, still contact of seat bones on saddle from flexed abdominals and a flattened lower back, bringing seat bones forward.

* Keep both lower legs on horse's side at the girth.

* Use an appropriate intensity with both hands. The following is a list in increasing intensity:

• Close fingers.

• Squeeze reins.

• Roll hands inward.

• Move arm backward from shoulder.

• Lean upper body back.



Trot — Halt — Trot

• Trot, sitting.

• Trot the corner to the right.

• When the horse is straight, ride a series of half halts.

• Halt for 3 seconds.

• Soften but hold your driving aids slightly to maintain contact and form up in front so you can strike off at any gait at any moment.

• Trot, thinking "spring into action," using a stronger more exaggerated version of trot aids.

• Hug the horse's abdominals with your lower legs to cause him to "get light" and lift himself up.

• Apply intermittent lower leg in a strong quiver rather than heavy, steady pressure.

• Trot 30 feet.

• Halt 3 seconds.

• Trot 30 feet.

• Halt 3 seconds.

• Trot.

• Trot the corner.

• When straight, halt.

• Reverse.

In dressage, a halt is a series of half halts followed by a yield. Practicing it develops discipline and collection, quickens and lightens your horse's response to the aids, and improves training level dressage.

* Don't surprise your horse with aids that have not been preceded by a preparatory cue.

* Only practice the transitions on straight lines.

* Ease without losing contact when you feel that your horse has "started to stop."



Canter — Walk — Canter

• Trot.

• Canter.

• Canter large circle.

• Three strides before rail, do a series of half halts.

• Canter straight one stride.

• Walk, keeping weight on both seat bones and shoulders over hips.

• Walk 1–2 strides.

• Make a slight bend right.

• Use a strong inside leg to outside rein.

• Bend to the inside.

• Hold outside leg.

• Canter right lead in a large circle.

• Continue the sequence.

You get a more collected canter with a walk-canter transition than a trot-canter transition, and you can align your horse's body more correctly.

At first, the canter-walk transition might require a few steps of trot. Gradually, you and your horse will develop the balance and coordination to go directly from a canter to a walk.

* Don't lean forward on the upward transition. This would hinder the horse by weighting his forehand.

* Your horse must be on the aids and able to canter in balance before the walk-canter lesson.

* Don't sacrifice the forwardness of the canter. If the horse is getting behind the bit or taking mincing steps before the canter depart, trot actively forward, then half halt, walk, and canter.

* If your horse throws his head or inverts his neck, he has had improper preparation and balance.

* Using the inside rein too strongly could cause the horse to take the incorrect lead. If already cantering, a too-strong inside rein could cause him to break into a trot.

* If your horse breaks into a trot, go back to the walk. Don't push him into a canter from a fast trot.

* Keep your horse up on the outside rein so he won't drop to the inside and become heavy on his leading foreleg. You want him to be light!



Rein Back

• Always start on a straight line from a good square halt.

• Keep even weight on both seat bones, but don't sit real deep. Bear some weight on your thighs without leaning forward.

• Flex your gluteal muscles and abdominals to tilt your pelvis and bring your seat bones forward.

• Straighten your lower back to help your seat bones come forward.

• Apply equal pressure with both legs at the girth.

• As the horse arrives at the bit, maintain non-allowing equal direct rein pressure to encourage him to let his impulsion out backwards.

• Once the horse has yielded at jaw, poll, and loin, and has begun moving backward, lighten rein aids but maintain contact and continue seat and leg aids.

• To discontinue backing, release rein aids but continue seat and leg aids momentarily to drive the horse up to a halt or a forward gait.


The rein back is a "man-made" diagonal, two-beat gait in reverse. In nature, horses rarely back up for more than a step or two.

When backing promptly, the left hind and right front are lifted distinctly, moved backward, and placed down together. They alternate with the right hind and left front in a precise synchronization. When backing more slowly, the diagonal pairs break on landing, the front landing ahead of its diagonal hind.

The back is best ridden when thought of as a "forward" gait because the horse must first be ridden up into contact as if he were going to walk.

* Riding the back is valuable for suppleness, obedience, and developing strength of back and hindquarters of any horse.

* Riding the back is used in all English performances and second-level dressage.

* If your horse "gets stuck" or "freezes," use squeeze and release, vibrations, or light alternating reins to untrack him. Never try to pull a horse backward.

* If a horse backs too slowly or unwillingly, the back becomes a labored, four-beat gait, and often the horse will drag his feet backward rather than lift his legs.

* If a horse backs crookedly, apply the leg on the side to which he is angling his hindquarters. If he is swinging his hindquarters to the right, first be sure you are not causing it with your left leg or left rein. If they are OK, apply your right leg behind the girth to straighten him.

* Never start the back with the reins.

* Backing can be overdone and cause anticipation, a dangerous rapid rushing backward, or can cause the horse to use backing as an avoidance behavior.

* A horse needs to become gradually accustomed to the concept of backing, and he must be allowed to build up his coordination and strength before he is asked to back for long distances.



Trot — Halt — Back — Trot

• Trot, sitting.

• Trot the corner.

• When straight, walk 1–2 strides.

• Trot 1–2 strides.

• Halt.

• Trot 1–2 strides.

• Halt.

• Back 2 strides.

• Walk 1 stride.

• Trot 1–2 strides.

• Halt.

• Back 2 strides.

• Trot forward and around both corners of the short end.

• When straight, halt.

• Back 2 strides.

• Trot 2–3 strides.

• Halt.

• Back 2 strides.

• Trot forward.

This is a transition from a diagonal gait in reverse to a diagonal gait forward, so it should be very fluid and energetic. The horse's weight should just settle on the last rearward step and instantly be translated to the first forward trot step. If you fumble or get imbalanced in the middle of the transition or if the horse locks up, you have lost the benefit of the exercise.

Backing can be overdone. It can be used as an evasion by the horse. Watch for signs of anticipation or reluctance to move forward into the contact.

This exercise:

* Develops springiness to the trot depart.

* Engages hindquarters and brings a roundness to the top-line.



Lengthen Trot

• Posting trot and trot around the corner.

• Trot down the long side and around the corner.

• Sitting trot down the short end.

• In the second corner of the short end, ride a 40-foot-diameter circle in active sitting trot, with strong right leg and right seat bone.

• Finish the circle and head across the diagonal.

• After one stride straight, you should feel even contact in both of your hands.

• Half halt.

• Lengthen across the diagonal, posting trot.

• Use exaggerated driving aids with each sitting beat.

• Allow the horse to fill up a new frame with his increased impulsion and reach by letting both of your hands move forward.

• Ride the lengthening as many strides as the horse is capable of while staying in balance, from just a few strides to the entire diagonal.

• Half halt as you end the lengthening.

• Sitting trot straight and around the corner to left.

This exercise develops strength of back, loin, and hindquarters of any horse.

* At first, just ask for a few strides. Over time, ask for the entire diagonal. A horse must develop the strength to lengthen.

* Stay organized and don't let the horse speed up instead of reaching out farther. A lengthening is a longer reach and a lower frame, but in the same rhythm as the working trot.

* The first steps of an extension are a fraction slower and more collected than the working trot.

* If you haven't developed an effective seat, the sitting trot on the circle may cause your horse to become tense and hollow his back.



Half Turn

Half turn to the right:

• At the sitting trot, leave the rail and begin riding a small circle.

• At the widest part of the circle, ride a diagonal line back toward track.

• Initiate left flexion.

Half turn in reverse:

• Leave the rail using mild right bend.

• Straighten and ride a diagonal line until you are about 20 feet from the rail.

• Initiate bend to left.

• Ride a small half circle to left.

• Straighten.

A half turn provides a more concise and immediate way to change direction than on a diagonal or figure 8.

Many horses slow down their rhythm in a half turn. This usually occurs for one of two reasons. The young horse decreases his tempo because he interprets increased bit pressure as a signal to slow down. He hasn't learned to differentiate the various pressures on the bit. The horse that is lazy or out of condition will slow down because it requires more energy to perform a half turn in balance and at the correct tempo than it does to perform one sloppily. Keep your forward driving aids on your horse so he doesn't lose rhythm in the turn.



Turn on the Forehand

• Walk.

• Right corner at a walk.

• Drift off the track so you are about 10–15 feet from the rail and have room for the turn.

• Halt.

• Turn on the forehand 180 degrees with left flexion and hindquarters moving to the right.

– Flex horse's head to the left with a shortened left rein.

– Weight left seat bone.

– Use left leg actively behind the girth to push the hindquarters to the right.

– Use right leg at the girth to keep the horse moving in a forward walk rhythm, from rushing sideways to the right, and from backing up.

In a turn on the forehand where the hindquarters move right and the horse is flexed left (as on arena map):

* Footfall pattern is left hind, left front, right hind, right front.

* The pivot point is the left front foot; the left front remains relatively stationary, lifting up and setting down (not swiveling) in place.

* The right front walks a tiny forward half circle around the left front.

* The hind legs walk a half circle around the front legs.

* The left hind crosses over and in front of the right hind.

* Turning on the forehand is an essential suppling, obedience, and positioning (straightening) exercise.

* It teaches the horse to respond to sideways driving and lateral aids.

* Keep this turn very forward. Don't let your horse avoid the aids and back out of the turn.

* At the beginning, let him do a walk around, forward turn on the forehand before you require one absolutely in place.

* If a horse backs up, he will be unable to cross over behind and his pivot point will be lost.

* A too-forward turn can be easily counteracted by increasing pressure on the outside (right) rein.



Leg Yield

• Working trot, sitting.

• Straight.

• Corner.

• Straight.

• Half halt.

• Leg yield to the right with forward driving aids:

– Left seat bone.

– Left leg behind the girth and actively pushing sideways each time the left hind lifts and starts a forward/sideways step.

– Right rein guides direction of travel and prevents bulging right shoulder.

– Right leg prevents rushing away from the left leg and keeps the horse moving forward.

– Left rein slight flexion left added as last aid and lightly because the horse is basically ridden straight between the reins.

• Straighten and ride forward.

In a leg yield to the right, the horse is flexed very slightly to the left, the body is straight, and the horse is moving to the right from the rider's left leg. The horse's left legs cross over the right legs. The forehand is very slightly in advance of the hind-quarters. The horse remains parallel to the arena rail in this version of the leg yield exercise.

Practice first at the walk to become familiar with the application and timing of your aids.

For variety, rather than riding the leg yield on a diagonal line, ride the leg yield directly along the wall or rail. Either have the horse flexed slightly toward the rail and have him yield from your leg by the rail, or have the horse flexed slightly toward the inside of the arena and have him yield from your leg on the inside of the arena.

The leg yield:

* Teaches obedience to sideways driving aids.

* Serves as a suppling exercise to show horse how to perform with loose, free movement.

* Is useful later for initial straightening.


Excerpted from "Intermediate English Exercises"
by .
Copyright © 1998 Cherry Hill.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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