This is the third installment of our four-part series on how to ride a trail pattern. This month it’s time for the wheel, or what I call the wheel of death. This exercise for me has been the hardest to master. I still have trouble because it combines length of stride, accuracy, and correctness of gait. Three things that don’t always come easy for me and my horse Cowboy. At Trendsetter Performance Horses we always have some kind of crazy wheel set up for our lessons. Sometimes they are a wheel of three to four poles but they can be more intricate with up to six poles creating even more strides to count. Because at every horse show there is a wheel it’s a definite for your practice ring at home. Kellie likes to have a four-pole wheel. She sets it so that between each pole you should get three lope strides. It is ridden as a circle and though there are no real stride rules, counting strides between the poles is essential. When starting the wheel in practice it’s best to start a few strides away. Regulate and organize your lope before your first pole.
Stay to the middle-outside of your pole turning and looking towards your next pole as you steer towards pole number two, continuing around the entire circle. As you count you can adjust your striding by steering out of your circle to add more room to the next pole or steer in if you are too far away from the next pole. Counting strides is important you need to know where you are and because of the fast gait you need to have time to adjust. When Kellie is schooling her horses on the wheel she prefers to stop her horse if the striding is off, move out of the circle, and then start again. That way the horse is not scrambling around and learns to set up for the correct distances. On the young horses or horses just learning trail Kellie will start at the trot. This way they learn the pattern of the wheel without the stress of fitting in the three strides. From a rider standpoint steering is as important as looking towards your next pole. The poles come up quickly so if you are not counting strides it’s very easy to get too close or too far away from your next pole. Wheels are definitely one of the most challenging obstacles, at our barn we’ve adopted the saying “Make that wheel your B…” well I won’t say the rest but you get the picture. Next month we will have the final installment and Kellie will talk us through riding a whole course. Have fun with your wheel.