Today we are starting a three-part series on riding a competitive trail course with California trainer Kellie Hinely. Kellie specializes in both trail and All-around horses and riders. She brings a great deal of knowledge to the subject and will talk about obstacles that riders will most likely see in the trail pen. Have fun setting up practice courses at home.
To begin you will need four twelve-foot poles. You will need to set them up in a square.
A box is something Kellie loves to have in her practice arena. It’s a great exercise for young horses as well as seasoned competitors. This exercise is meant to teach cadence and consistency and can be done at the trot or lope.
The first exercise is to trot straight through the middle. You are looking to have four even trot steps across. Try to keep your steps even throughout. After going through the middle, turn and go through again (see diagram). In the beginning, don’t worry if your horse hits the poles. Here you are mainly working on the consistency of your pace. Once you’ve mastered the trot, you can do the same thing at the lope. This time you will get two strides through the middle. You can lope through either direction.
The second exercise is a serpentine. This one is only done at the trot. You are going to trot in and turn either right or left through the corner ( see diagram). You will want to work on your horse’s inside front leg stepping over the pole first, followed by the outside front leg. Mastering that footwork will help you achieve extra points in the showpen. This exercise is all about repetition, so continue to wind in and out from corner to corner.
The third exercise is the side-pass. This exercise is challenging. You will want to walk your horse into the box, with their front feet inside, and hind feet outside the box. Using your left leg, you will guide them to the right, and with your right leg you will guide them to the left. Your rein is used to keep your horse from moving forward or backward. The horse should stay straight, just moving from one side to the other.
So, for example, starting at the left corner of the box, squeeze your left leg and move towards the right. When you get to the right corner, use your right leg to move back towards the right. Once you are consistently going back and forth you can also side-pass the entire box. Working slowly in the corners you will guide your horse’s hind end around as the front end stays in place. Then start the side pass all over again.
The box obstacle is so versatile, and as you can see you can ride it in so many ways.
Kellie Hinely is the owner and trainer of Trendsetter Performance Horses in Chino Hills, California.
by Pam Stein Moeck and Kellie Hinely