Riding exercise of the month: forwards and back

Having been riding my two boys plus my mother's horse for the last week I've very quickly had to find an exercise that suits all three of them as a good warm up exercise, so that instead of having to plan three separate sets of warm ups for each horse I can use the same one for each one! 😁
What I found to work the best for all three horses was riding forwards and back, especially in canter - although on some days Basse has needed to do this in trot. Riding transitions within canter will create more power, help lighten their forehand and improve their balance (Basse and Erkki need this for sure!) So after my 10-15 minute walk on a long rein warm up I pick up canter and ride a 20 metre circle, asking the horse to take bigger and smaller canter strides. It works well because they need to engage their hindquarters and use their hocks to actually push forwards for a third or half a circle, and then come back to me and actually listen to what I'm asking for, rather than just galavanting around the arena doing what they want to do which in Vallu's case is spooking by the door and the scary corner!

With collecting the canter I always think walk with my reins, seat and position but then canter with my legs. I've always been taught that the aim is to bring the canter 'back' to a walk speed, but by asking the horse to go forwards with your legs it's possible to keep the jump in the canter and the horse should take more weight behind - although if someone would tell Basse this I'd be super grateful! 🦄 Their balance should change and they become more uphill, although for some horses it might happen after a while.
As well as improving the quality of the horse’s canter (and trot, as you can see from the photo above ⬆️) this exercise really helps with simple changes. I know a few riders who find simple changes difficult to get right because the horse’s canter isn’t collected enough, but by practising this exercise at home and it has (at least for me!) helped to achieve a much smoother transition to walk. A couple of times after having done this exercise I've then ridden a figure of eight exercise with simple changes over X and I have definitely noticed a difference when I've warmed up with this forwards and back exercise and when I've not.

Have you tried this before? Has it been helpful at all?

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