Don't let the winter weather get you down when you can use being stuck in the arena as an opportunity to fine tune your riding! In this series, we are reviving past Grid Pro Quo articles from Eventing USA to help you use the off-season to your advantage and keep you and your horse in tip-top shape for when it's time to get back out there. Click here to check out other past Grid Pro Quo exercises to spice up your arena this winter!
I have been lucky enough to teach all over the country, which has been great for growing as an instructor. One of the best things you can do as a rider is watch as much as you can. Think about it: watching riders warm up at shows is free! Also, most clinics have a nominal auditing fee. So the next time you have a spare weekend, find a local show or clinic and spend a day watching. I bet you will come away inspired to go home and practice what you saw.
This trot grid is one that I have developed over the years. Like most good grids, it is particularly helpful for quick horses and for those horses that want to jump over their shoulders. For the rider, it is a great exercise for demanding that they stay balanced over their foot and do not get ahead of the horse's center.
In addition to emphasizing all the things that any gymnastic emphasizes—straightness and footwork—it also really helps rebalance a horse that falls on his forehand. Most importantly, it demands through the rebalancing that they keeping going forward. The most important thing you can teach a horse is how to keep moving forward through the questions they may face.
Generally, I build trot grids one fence at a time. I am a bit methodical when it comes to building up my grids, so I will take you through it one step at a time.
After the horses have sufficiently warmed up on the flat, I will have the riders walk and then trot through three to four trot poles set four and a half feet apart. This is just to get the horses thinking about where their feet are.
From there, I set up a small cross-rail with a ground rail. After a few trips over the cross-rail, I place another ground pole eight to nine feet in front of the cross rail. The final warm-up step is to raise the cross-rail to your maximum comfort level.
Your next fence will be the Vertical 1, one stride (18 feet) from the cross-rail. For the first trip through, you want to leave the vertical low, so as not to surprise your horse.
Next, add Vertical 2 ten feet from Vertical 1. This completes your first bounce.
Keeing Your Horse In Front of Your Leg
Early on in any grid, I like to make the second fence fairly sizable to make sure that the rider has their horse in front of their leg. For this particular grid, I will make Vertical 1 larger before putting in Vertical 2 for the lower level groups (Novice level and below). For the higher level groups, I will wait until Vertical 2 is in, and then make that quite large.
After you have gone through the grid a few times with the raised vertical, put it back down to a more reasonable height. You now have two options depending on your level: The lower levels will look at Option 1, which has a single bounce.
The higher levels will have an additional bounce, illustrated in Option 2. This extra bounce really makes the horses and riders work. The horses have to remain light on their feet, while their riders have to remain strong through their core.
After you have completed the bounce portion of the grid, you will add in the Final Vertical 19 feet from Vertical 2 or 3, depending on which Option you chose.
After you have been through the complete grid at least twice, place the Final Oxer 20 feet after the Final Vertical. You can play with making it larger, but remember that at this point your horses have done a lot of work so it would not be fair to over tax them with a huge oxer, no matter how much fun it would be. Plus, I typically have riders continue on to a few canter exercises after this.
About Stephen Bradley
Stephen Bradley is a Level IV ICP Certified Instructor. Since 1992, he has been short-listed for four Olympic teams and three World Equestrian Games teams, including the 2010 World Games in Kentucky. He has been a member of two gold medal winning Pan American Games teams and is only one of two American riders to win the Land Rover Burghley CCI4*, doing so in 1993 with Sassy Reason. He enjoys teaching all levels of riders from beginners to advanced. You can learn more about Stephen on his website.
This Grid Pro Quo first appeared in Volume 42, Issue 1 of Eventing USA.