Schooling Plans

Lesson Plan 8: Using the Square

We often talk about circle work but another great exercise is the square. The following are suggestions for the work with the square and to show how, over time, you can add layers or degrees of difficulty to both improve the riders thinking, aiding and co-ordination and to improve the horses suppleness, responsive and carrying power. So although listed as another Lesson Plan this work should be achieved over a period of sessions.

To start with ride, in walk, a 20m square, riding accurate corners (3 steps maximum of the inside hindleg) with good energy, bend and connection. Then imagine a circle drawn within that square and the circle will touch each side of the square half way along. On one side of the square ride onto the circle and then keep, from different sides alternating between the square and the circle. Change the rein and repeat.

Now ride the square in walk but as you move to the circle add a trot transition in. So the first stride off the square to the circle trot and then on a different side as you leave the circle to the square ride a transition to walk.

Ride the walk square and then to come onto the circle ride a walk to canter transition, canter the circle and then canter to walk to return to the square.

As a bonus tip to this ride when riding the circle in trot stride count to check for accuracy and then stride count again in the canter.

Ride your 20m walk square and then ride a 10m circle in each of the 4 corners of the square so the corner is a 1/4 of the circle. Change the rein and repeat.

So by now the horse should be listening to the inside leg (from the walk trots), the rider having a good control of the outside of the horse (turning from the square to the circle) and can bend the horse from a straight line.

Now ride the square and as you approach the corner half halt, slightly flex to the inside and then turn the horses shoulders via the reins and your body positioning as if you were carrying a tray and turning into a room on your inside. This is the starts of the quarter pirouette turn. Improve the quarter pirrie turn by adding some lateral bend. The key point here though is if you use too much inside rein or use the inside hand back towards the pommel you will block the outside hindleg from coming through and around. Turn the tray!!

Now ride the walk square, with quarter pirouettes in each corner. Then add to this as you come through one corner ride from the quarter pirrie into shoulder-in, then next corner exit the shoulder-in via a small pirrie to the straight line. So on two opposite sides of the square add shoulder-in. This is a good rider co-ordination exercise, softly keeping the horse balanced between all of the aids and for the horse it is a really good suppling and engaging exercise.

Now ride a 20m figure of eight:(In a 20m x 40 m school:)

  • Start at A, ride to the A-K corner first quarter pirrie into shoulder-in right to E.
  • At E small pirrie to turn onto the E-B line and straight.
  • At B quarter pirrie left into shoulder-in left into small pirrie to ride straight across short side.
  • Quarter pirrie in the C-H corner into left shoulder-in.
  • At E small pirrie left to go straight E-B.
  • At B right quarter pirrie to shoulder-in.
  • In the F-A corner small pirrie to go straight across short side then move onto the 20m circle and trot to assess.

Riding the 20m walk square with quarter pirries in each corner. Now to increase the pirrie turn as you get to one corner invite a greater turn by going back across the diagonal of the square so you will have essentially split you square in half making a triangle.

Now ride the 20m square starting from A on the right rein. K-A corner quarter pirrie into right shoulder-in, E small pirrie to ride straight E-B, B quarter pirrie to right shoulder-in. Now this time as you approach the F-A corner keep the shoulder-in angle but change the flexion to left flexion and along the short side ride leg yield head to wall. Straighten before the K-A corner and repeat the exercise. If this goes well then as you come to the F-A corner again from right shoulder-in then try and keep the bend right and the positioning and go onto the short side in travers (haunches in, quarters in) then in the K-A corner the pirrie will have more steps to it to get back around to right shoulder-in. So you will be aiming to ride 4 quarter pirries with shoulder-in on two opposite sides and traver on the other two opposite sides. As usual have a loosening off trot in-between and change the rein and repeat the other way.

Now ride the 20m square, shoulder-in on the first side and then turn this into traver onto a 10m circle in each corner back into shoulder-in for the next side. So you ride 4 sides of shoulder-in and 4 x 10m circles in the corners which are in traver. Exit the last circle and come onto the 20m circle and ride trot stretch to release and refresh forwards.

In time the work above cna be ridden in trot and then canter but although listed in one article this work should be gradually developed over time. Always have breaks in your schooling sessions and periods of stretching inbetween the up and running work.