Blue Lake Arena
Foot, Face & Body
Welcome! to all who would like to learn
new horsemanship skills and how to help their horse ride better.
The city of Blue Lake has taken great care and effort to make
the riding arena better and safer for horses and riders. Much
effort has also been taken toward dust abatement for riders and
neighbors. Kernan Construction has donated multiple loads of
clean river sand to improve the footing. Take time to thank Brian
Dorman for watering with the new sprinkler system when necessary
and thank Karen Dorman for posting information about our gatherings
on the BL Saddle Club website. We also need to thank Darci Lima
for keeping a watchful eye on the grounds and donating her time
to grooming the arena surface.
There is no charge for my help but the city of Blue Lake requires
a signed liability release which includes a $50 annual fee that
entitles you to an arena key and the use of the arena at any
time provided there is no other scheduled event taking place.
Please follow the Liability Guidelines as set forth by the city.
Helmets are required for all riders under 18 years of age and
encouraged, but not required, for adults. I urge each rider to
join the Blue Lake Saddle Club in support of the arena facility.
The October Schedule of weekly Wednesday evening gatherings,
5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, can be found on our website, www.hought.com.
As the daylight hours shorten, try to arrive early, warm-up and
be ready to go. At some point it will be necessary to change
to Saturday or Sunday during the day provided the arena is not
scheduled for another event. To find the schedule go to the Homepage
Sitemap and select Training Corner. The Training Corner also
has relevant articles dealing with preparing the horse.
The evening session will include a group of exercises each of
which builds upon the other and focuses on your horse's development
of better foot, face and body control.
Warm-up should take about 15 minutes. Do
not dilly, dally, stay on task.
1. Trot and lope/canter 2 circles in both
directions, more if needed. Remember, circle #1 is counter clockwise
near the gate end of the arena and circle #2 is clockwise at
the far end. If more than one rider is on the circle, keep your
head up. If you are getting too close to the front horse, lope
a smaller circle to the inside of the circle on the same lead,
giving the front horse more space.
2. Turn on the haunch and forehand twice.
Remember, reins are used to stop forward movement only.
3. Load, depart. Back 2, 3, 4 steps; forward
2, 3, 4 steps, do one set in a single straight line all in a
single track. The purpose of this exercise is to "load"
the horse's hindquarters thus enabling him to push off for the
departure with energy. It is important to back with energy as
it develops the urgency necessary for backing up and departing
This exercise develops the urgency required to execute a maneuver
with effort. The indirect gain is the horse will anticipate the
back up and volunteer more effort in the stop because he is thinking
about backing up. So we get improvement in the "stop"
skill without specifically working on it. To keep from wearing
out the horse and rider's interest in the exercise, spend no
more than 2-3 minutes maximum on any sequence.
Which lead is used on the counter circle?
Which lead is used on the clockwise circle?
Everyone uses different terms for points of
reference on a circle. In an effort to clearly describe the parts
of a circle, I use the following reference points. Usually the
point of departure is from the top of the circle.
Circle, Stop and Sweep-
Depart onto circle #1 clockwise, red. Stop at the top of the
circle, roll back to the right onto circle #2, blue, clockwise.
Stop at the original departure point (top of circle). Roll back
to the right, green, circle #1 and stop, at the top of the circle,
backup. You should be facing the same direction as your original
departure. The lead departure determines the roll back direction.
Right hand lead, roll back to the right, and so forth.
The focus of this exercise is to prepare your
horse to travel in a straight line and stop straight. If you
can see either eye, he is not traveling straight. This exercise
is repeated twice. Depart from the center cone on the left hand
lead riding straight toward cone #1. Turn on the end and ride
straight toward cone #3. Turn on the end and ride straight toward
cone #1, a second time. Turn on the end and ride straight toward
cone #3, a second time. Turn on the end ride straight toward
cone #1. Stop in the center, back up and sit for a few moments
to let your horse catch his air and think about what he just
completed. Reverse this exercise and execute on the right hand
Depart clockwise on circle #1, completing
3 circles. Ride out of #1, staying on the right hand lead, counter
lead, circling counter clockwise on circle #2. At the bottom
of circle #2 on the second circle, change to the left hand lead.
Complete 2 circles, counter clockwise on circle #2 on the now
left hand lead.
4. Wiggle, Waggle. Turn 180° on the
forehand to the left. Turn 180° on the haunch to the right.
You should be facing the same direction as you started. Execute
in each direction. Hint: If the first part moves left, the second
part moves right.
Each of the following individual exercises,
when accomplished and combined, will begin to develop your horse's
foot, face and body control. To help the horse ride better, we
practice these exercises in this order as each exercise builds
on the next. Most of these exercises can be developed on the
trail except for circling. That is why structured arena exercises
are necessary to continue your horse's development.
1. Ride the perimeter of the arena in both directions, two to
four laps, at the walk and/or the trot so your horse sees all
obstacles with both eyes. Ride him up to anything he is unsure
about. Probably only once in each direction.
2. Lope/canter 4 circles to the left, repeat to the right. Lope
right hand circles at the far end of the arena and left hand
circles at the gate end. The goal is to ride in round circles
keeping your head up looking forward. As you ride, you are working
to develop speed control and guiding along with control of foot,
face and body.
3. Turns-forehand and haunches: Turn on the forehand in both
directions and turn on the haunch in both directions. Repeat
twice. Use reins only to stop forward movement.
4. Load and depart: Back up 4 strides, depart forward 4 strides,
all in a straight line. Repeat 4 times.
5. Chase tail. Choose a partner to follow. This socializes your
horse, develops guiding, circling, foot control, backing and
6. Circle Weave
7. Cigar: Make 3 circles the full length center of the arena,
stop in the center and back up. This develops guiding, straight
lines, speed control and stops.
8. Canter/Lope Squares: Ride two sets on both leads.
9. Circle, Stop and Sweep: Depart to the left on a circle, stop
in the center and roll back to the left onto circle #2. Make
one circle, stop in center and roll back to the left going back
to circle #1, stop in the center and back up. You should be facing
the same direction you started.
9. Lead Changes: Lope 3 circles to the right. Ride out of the
right hand circle into 2 counter lead circles to the left. Change
leads at the bottom of the circle into the left hand lead, complete
one circle in the left hand lead, stop and back up. Lead changes
are executed on a straight line. The lead change is not a change
of direction. Yes, a change of direction may occur but it will
be one or two strides after the change.
Evaluate each exercise on a scale of 1-10. Who was the leader?
What does it take to be a good leader. Remember, the horse is
a herd animal.
The Game Slowed Down
The phrase "the game slowed down"
is one repeated by many professional athletes who describe the
turning point towards success in their field as when the "game
The same observation can be made of riders who do not canter,
gallop or lope their horses. Riding in the faster gaits can be
challenging because everything is happening quicker. Correct
balance is achieved by riding centered on the seating bones.
Grasp the saddle horn for balance and security if necessary.
We all have seen riders who balance with the reins on the horse's
When a rider's game slows down, suddenly riding becomes simple.
When this break through happens it becomes easy to sit and "let
the horse take you for a ride". Then, all that needs to
be done is sit still, stay out of his way with your hands and
feet and respond to the answers the horse sends up to the rider.
The only way to develop the self confidence is to practice the
canter gait. If riding with a group, it would not be wise to
practice cantering. Practice when riding solo. The horse can
then, focus on you, the leader.
Here is a series of questions to test your
understanding of the exercises we are using. They will help you
evaluate your personal growth as well as your horse's progress.
Hint: Always remember, you need to know what to do before the
1. Why do we practice a structured group
of warm-up exercises? What are they?
2. If we use the clock as an example of points of references
on the circles we ride, where do we usually begin a circle, where
is the top of the circle __?__ and the bottom of the circle __?__?
3. Which circles are ridden clockwise, and which are ridden counter
4. The circle, stop and sweep follows 2 rules, what are they?
5. The "cigar" exercise focuses on a primary skill,
what is it? What must we focus on when we make the turn at the
6. What is the wiggle, waggle and explain how to execute it.
Good luck, grinnnn.
7. At what point should the rider lean to the inside of a sharp
change of direction as in the rollback?
8. How does your horse know when he has given the correct answer?
What do you do?
9. What cues do you give your horse to back up? Is there a body
language correlation between the back up and the stop?
10. If you are cantering on a circle with a group of riders and
you are getting too close to the horses in front of you, what
is the correction?
11. The exercise "Load and depart", when executed with
energy both forward and backward, results in a "free"
skill. What is it? What is the primary focus of this exercise?
12. Is there a correlation between the rider's body position
in the back up and the stop? Why or why not?
13. When cantering squares, what would you say is the key factor
to remember in order to execute square corners?
14. What would you say are the two most important goals in the
exercise "circle weave"?
15. What are the main skills of "chase tail" and how
will it help your horse develop?
16. Why is it important to work on an exercise for no longer
than 2-3 minutes?
17. How can cantering squares aid the "cigar" exercise?
18. Do you focus on any of the natural traits of the horse? Which
ones? An example is, the horse is a herd animal.
19. What does the term "counter canter" mean?
20. If your horse is off lead in the "cigar" exercise,
where and how do you make the correction?
I am beginning to see "happy faces" on our riders because
they are having fun and their horses are beginning to show improvement
in foot, face and body control. Success only comes with practice,
therefore riding 2-3 times in addition to our weekly gatherings
is important. If you are able to ride 3 days in a row, your horse
will be better on day two then on day one and so forth.