Favorite Exercises

Technically everything is my favorite thing to do with the Frankfurter since he’s a total bro, but there are certain favorite exercises that are even MORE favorite than others. They vary in technicality, but all of them have been super helpful for both myself and for Francis.

Sitting Trot

I’m starting pretty darn basic over here folks. Just about any time I need a reset on anything, or want to work on anything lateral, I get into a nice collected sitting trot. Something about having that full contact through my seat and legs helps things *click* for Frankie more so than any other gait. I know much good advice says that slowing things down helps introduce concepts, but I find his collected trot much more rideable than his walk when I’m asking him to engage his brain. It’s also a great core workout for me and helps me get my hip angle open so that when I’m on course I can have a bit more range of motion. Once we’re warmed up, I like to do quite a lot at the sitting trot when we’re working on the flat (we play around with extensions while sitting sometimes and WOW CORE WORKOUT. Those DQs have abs of steel, man.).

We also like dropping our stirrups


Ah, the magical shoulder in. It is such a tattle tale for us. As soon as I ask for it, it becomes immediately apparent whether Frankie is truly on my aids or if I’m letting him fake it. It’s also juuust enough brain power to help him loosen up his body and focus on me even in a busy ring. If we’ve been doing a lot of lateral work he sometimes will start anticipating by going all pretzel-y, and a gentle shoulder-in helps cut down on the noise and gives his brain a break while still engaging.

Short-set/Irregularly-set grids

We almost never set grids that are at perfect stride lengths. We’ll often do short stride to short stride, short stride to long stride, or long stride to short stride. Never long stride to long stride, because then we’re not really working on adjustability OR rocking back. The imperfect/short options help him figure out how to self-police his stride, which is something that we’re constantly trying to help him build. I credit a huge amount of his muscling and improvement over fences to these short grids.

Short strides make Frankie mad but they also make dat booty powerful (also this isn’t one jump looped, this is 9ish efforts looped haha)

Canter poles

OK so these aren’t actually a favorite because they terrify me. But I did have to put them on the list since I’ve found them so helpful in building collection and straightness. Frankie is smart enough to not want to step on these, but not smart enough to know he can split his legs over them, so he’s really very good about self-shortening to make it through the poles as set. It’s a nice balance. Placing these on the quarter line also helps tattle on any drift we might have (especially towards the wall) so that I can keep him balanced and straight.

Poles. Are. Terrifying. (For me, not for Francis. He’s mostly just sad that they are not eatable)

Counter-bend on a circle

One of my favorite things that we work on is making a medium sized circle, then making the same circle with a counter-bend, then going back to the regular bend. This helps unlock his body through his ribcage, and it’s just hard enough that he has to really be paying attention to me. This is one I like to do at the sitting trot to be super present and help him balance, and keep that trot a little more collected.

Most of these exercises have a common theme: they engage Frankie’s brain and challenge him. We intersperse these harder exercises with plenty of stretch breaks for our bodies and brains before going back to it.

I’ve also found that I can tailor the difficulty of these exercises depending on how Frankie feels that day – the circles can be smaller or bigger, the poles/grids can be shorter or a little easier, our lateral work can be a little shallower. I’m also finding that we’re developing new exercises to engage his brain (my new favorite is the canter half-pass, which is still rudimentary but developing really nicely).

I’ll also add that most of these exercises were not ones that I would’ve chosen for us when I first got Frankie and had to firmly install the forward button. At that point we didn’t have enough power in his stride to be able to ask for collection and lateral motion, and our focus was on forward motion at all times. Now that he knows the job and has a solid base level of fitness though, these are my go-tos on working to build our strengths and address our weaknesses.

I’d love to know what you all like to work on with your ponies too!

11 thoughts on “Favorite Exercises

  1. Austen 04/17/2019 / 8:55 am

    I’m not gonna lie. When I stopped riding the sitting trot every day, I lost so much ab strength. It’s ridiculous how much I was depending on that work to keep me in shape! Haha. Of course, now it’s time to introduce the sitting trot to Bast, so hello abdominals again!

    Also, shoulder in is legit my favorite exercise EVER. It tests the aids, it strengthens the hind end, it improves collection, it supples the horse, it tests your abilities to see a straight line (real problems, yo), and it’s kinda fun. Overall a win!


    • hellomylivia 04/29/2019 / 6:47 am

      I swear shoulder-in is our magic button to test pretty much everything. So much love.


  2. Centered in the Saddle 04/17/2019 / 10:16 am

    I love all those exercises with Duke, too! I also add in leg yields – and not always from quarter line to the rail, which he anticipates big time. One of my new favorites is the leg yield zig-zag, starting in the corner approaching the long side, leg yield away from the wall until you’re about halfway down the arena, then switch and leg yield back to the corner. Duke hates it because he can’t anticipate it and get drifty and pretzely haha.


    • hellomylivia 04/29/2019 / 6:47 am

      Ooooh yes the anticipation is real with this one too, we gotta keep them on their toes!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Liz 04/17/2019 / 12:48 pm

    OMG that many canter poles in a row would make me nervous!


  4. Tracy 04/17/2019 / 1:10 pm

    I do a lot of leg yields with Niko to get him concentrating on me — it’s hard work moving that booty!


  5. HunkyHanoverian 04/23/2019 / 3:31 pm

    I love ALL of these, legit all of them. I implement a lot of counter bed in turns and circles, love me some shoulder-in and sitting trot, poles for days… literally all of it. So important!


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