Most of the time we think about riding in a ring we think circles, diagonals, centerlines, and going around on the rail. We may throw in a funky shape here and there for fun or on accident. This kind of riding can cause both you and your horse to passively go around and form habits you don’t mean to make. To fix this, you have to think outside the ring.
I don’t just mean in the outdoor arena when I say you should ride outside. Remember, we are thinking outside the ring. I’m talking about in a field or around the turn out pastures. Riding in a large open space won’t give you the defined barriers that rings do. Get creavity in how you use the space and try to use as much of it as possible. Before you make the trek to the great wide open, please check with your barn management to see if and where you can ride on the property.
Inside the Outside
If you can’t ride outside the ring, you can still ride outside of something. When I first started getting serious about perfecting my circles, my trainer did something that really surprised me. She set up plastic jump holders in the middle of the arena in the shape of a circle. The size of the circle was just big enough that I could make a perfect 20 meter circle around them. The jumper holders were spaced far enough apart that my horse could go between the if I didn’t have enough inside leg. This was the perfect combination of riding inside the ring but outside something else.
This combination can be achieved with normal jump standards, poles, cavelettis, or chairs. You just need to have a set shape you are riding outside of. This will help you maintain a set goal shape that can’t change unless you knock it down.
Riding the same patterns ride after ride isn’t fun or a good way to perfect most skills. Get creative and throw in some fun shapes and exercises to make your horse truly listen. Remember, think outside the ring!