Pro and Non-Pro Reiner Article Series

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Insiders Guide: Exercises for winter conditioning

Pro and Non Pro articles written by Jen Jonas of Jonas Performance Horses and Sharon Jones of Be A Better You.

Jen’s focus and passion is reining horses; training them and the riders who aspire to show them. Jen is a successful show person with many buckles and trophies. She is also a versatile and effective coach – many of her students have won awards and classes and go from strength to strength. Sharon is one of Jen’s students, her day job is training people in ‘soft skills’ with a specialty in emotional intelligence and she wrote a best-seller on the topic, called Tread Gently.

Both Jen and Sharon are believers in continual learning – if you’re not learning you’re not growing.

Article Objective

This article is for Non-pro riders who cannot always get to see their trainer over the winter, and want a great exercise to keep their horse fit, agile, flexible and adept at moving off the rider’s cues – neck rein and legs. This exercise does all that and it reinforces the basics.

Sharon (Non-Pro): Jen (Jen Jonas, Pro) has taught me how important a solid foundation is on a horse; it’s more than executing the reining manoeuvres. Just practising reining manoeuvres can in the long run limit your effectiveness in them.

An exercise I love is the Clover Leaf. It teaches the rider to look where they are going – ‘Look where you’re going not at the horse’s head’ is many a trainer’s refrain! When done well it teaches the horse to be light on his/her feet, collect and transition gaits smoothly.

The Clover Leaf

You need 5 dollar-store cones. In the middle of the arena, place one cone. From there, walk around 21 steps (depending how big your feet are and how big your arena is!) in 4 positions around the centre cone, like North South East West on a compass, and place the other cones there.

Start at the walk, right lead. You want the horse to be slightly bent towards the right, around your right leg. Enter the clover leaf at cone 1, make an arc and go around the centre cone, head towards cone 2. After cone 2 go around the centre cone and head for cone 3. Go around cone 3 and around the centre cone, then round cone 4. Repeat. When the horse is comfortable at the walk, graduate to the jog. Always look where you are going, focus on your next cone, look to see where the next cone is. Your goal is to make the arcs smooth and the same size/shape for each leaf. Once you’ve worked the right lead, switch direction and repeat on the left.

This exercise can be done with any level of horse and at any gait. If it’s a youngster and doesn’t know much, use two hands to help guide the horse. Start with a walk then a jog and graduate to the lope when the horse is confident.

I love this exercise with both my older 7 y/o reiner and my 4 y/o.

Advancing the exercise

When the horse understands neck-reining, do the exercise one handed, through all gaits transitioning up and down, keeping the horse collected and soft in the face. Lope the clover pattern on the right lead, when you’re ready to change leads exit the clover leaf, circle round, change direction but don’t change leads, counter canter keeping the horse’s head soft, circle a couple of times if you need to, ask for the lead change, enter the clover leaf and repeat to the left.

The Pro view: Jen

This is a valuable exercise, even through it's simple it has amazing results! As you are riding this try to keep the horse’s shoulders squared up during your transitions from leaf to leaf. If you are having trouble doing this, break your horse down to a trot to gain control, then put them back up into the lope for the next leaf. Be patient and wait on them to figure out how to properly carry themselves through this exercise.

To see this exercise in action go to: http://www.jonasperformancehorses.com/training-videos
Pro and Non Pro articles written by Jen Jonas of Jonas Performance Horses and Sharon Jones of Be A Better You.

Both Jen and Sharon are believers in continual learning – if you’re not learning you’re not growing.

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