101 Arena Exercises for Horse & Rider


By Cherry Hill

Foreword by Carla Wennberg

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 9, 1995. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Take your riding to a new level! Bringing together recognized classic exercises for both English and Western riders plus her own original patterns and maneuvers, Cherry Hill provides an array of drills that will improve your riding technique. Whether you are a rider interested in expanding your repertoire or an instructor looking for new drills, these exercises will add excitement and variety to your training.


The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers by
publishing practical information that encourages
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Edited by Amanda R. Haar and Elizabeth McHale
Cover design by Cynthia N. McFarland
Cover photos by © Bob Langrish (front left), © Nathan Lake (front right), Richard Klimesh (author photo)
Line drawings designed by Cherry Hill and drawn by Peggy Judy
Text design and production by Eugenie Seidenberg Delaney

© 1995 by Cherry Hill

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other — without written permission from the publisher.

The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author or Storey Publishing. The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. For additional information please contact Storey Publishing, 210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247.

Storey books are available for special premium and promotional uses and for customized editions.
For further information, please call 1-800-793-9396.

Printed in the United States by Versa Press
30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hill, Cherry, 1947–

101 arena exercises : a ringside guide for horse & rider / Cherry Hill.

p.          cm.

“A Storey Publishing book.”

ISBN 978-0-88266-316-6 (pb - comb binding)

1. Horsemanship — Study and teaching. 2. Horsemanship. I. Title.

SF310.5.H55 1995

798.2′3′076 — dc20



101 Exercises List




1 At the Halt

2 Working Walk

3 Extended Walk

4 Collected Walk

5 Free Walk

6 Working Trot

7 Jog (Sitting Trot)

8 Extended Trot

9 Collected Trot

10 Working Canter and Lope

11 Extended Canter

12 Collected Canter

13 Back


14 Half Halt or Check

15 Halt-Walk-Halt

16 Walk – Posting Trot – Walk

17 Walk – Sitting Trot – Walk

18 Trot-Canter-Trot

19 Trot-Halt-Trot

20 Canter-Walk-Canter

21 Listen Up

22 Trot-Halt-Back-Walk

23 Trot-Halt-Back-Trot

24 Lengthen Trot

25 Extended Canter

26 Collected Canter

27 Change of Lead through Trot

28 Long and Low

29 Quality Control Check (Self-Carriage Test)


30 Straight

31 Corners

32 Change of Rein on Long Diagonal

33 Change of Rein on Short Diagonal

34 Extra Large Circle

35 Large (20-Meter) Circle

36 Medium (10-Meter) Circle

37 Small (6-Meter) Circle: Volte

38 Figure 8

39 Large Circle – Small Circle

40 Canter Springs

41 Spiral

42 Loosen Up

43 Half Turn

44 Change of Bend – Single Loop

45 Change of Bend – Shallow Loop

46 Change of Rein out of a Circle

47 Change of Rein in a Circle

48 Five-Loop Serpentine

49 Long Serpentine

50 Quarter Turn

51 Counter-Flex

52 Counter-Canter – Shallow Loop

53 Counter-Canter across Diagonal

54 Counter-Canter Serpentine


55 Turn on the Forehand

56 Western Two-Step

57 Leg Yield

58 Leg Yield Refresher

59 Leg Yield on a Circle

60 Zigzag Two-Step

61 In Position and Shoulder Fore

62 Shoulder In

63 Shoulder In and Circle

64 Shoulder In on a Circle

65 Travers (Haunches In)

66 Shoulder In and Travers on a Long Serpentine

67 Walk-Volte-Travers

68 Renvers (Haunches Out)

69 Walk Pirouette

70 Counter-Flexed Spiral In

71 Hindquarter Pivot

72 Rollback

73 Sidepass

74 Half Pass

75 Half Pass Refresher

76 Zigzag Half Pass

77 Working Pirouette (Pre-Pirouette)

78 Half-Canter Pirouette

79 Three-Quarter Canter Pirouette

80 Full Canter Pirouette


81 Guess What

82 Serpentine at Trot with Leg Yield

83 Circle and Leg Yield

84 Simple Change Serpentine

85 Square Serpentine

86 Two Squares

87 Lope Large Circle with Sidepass

88 Shoulder In and Lengthen

89 Sidepass and Lope the Diagonal

90 Walk-360-Walk

91 Lope-Halt-180-Lope

92 Lope-Halt-360-Lope

93 Canter Counter-Canter

94 Canter – Half Pass – Counter Canter

95 Flying Change

96 Flying Change after Short Diagonal

97 Flying Change Straight at Wall

98 Flying Change with Sharp Corner

99 Circle, Simple Change, Flying Change

100 Circle, Diagonal, Flying Change

101 Canter Half Pass – Lead Change



As an instructor, trainer, and coach of amateur and youth riders, I am always looking for helpful materials. Thank you, Cherry Hill, for your background as an instructor, as well as for your experience as a horsewoman!

Good knowledge of horse training is very hard to find. Cherry Hill demonstrates both the understanding and experience needed to produce a book with in-depth, correct procedures.

For riding instructors, this book is a dream come true. Instructors will find these exercises will make day-to-day lesson plans a breeze.

The Western rider and trainer will find wonderful suppling exercises as well as preparatory work for turns and lead changes.

The dressage rider will find a training program already set up. The progression is continuous and thoughtful.

For the horse trainer, this book is ideal. It contains a useful system to follow, from basic to complicated maneuvers. The illustrations are very well done and correct. Cherry Hill’s style is enjoyable, and she explains each exercise thoroughly.

A good horseman is a good horseman whether performing Western riding, reining, Western or English equitation, dressage, or hunt seat. All will benefit from this book, which ties together many “loose ends” for all riding disciplines.

This book is perfect for anyone who is seeking to improve their riding skills or their horse’s performance. Enjoy . . .

Carla Wennberg

Carla Wennberg is an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Championship rider and international AQHA and National Reining Horse Association judge. She was a college equine science program instructor for ten years and has trained and coached amateur and youth riders in state and national competitions. Carla is the Director of Reining for the United States Equestrian Team.


Arena exercises are a cross between gymnastics, meditation, and geometry. They are essential keys for discovering many important principles about training and riding.

The exercises in this book are organized by groups and presented in their approximate order of difficulty. However, depending on your horse’s level and style of training and his natural abilities and inherent problems, you might find some of the elementary exercises challenging and some of the advanced exercises easy.

Remember: The quality of the performance is much more important than just getting through the exercise!

I cannot stress this enough. Take your time and do the simple things well before you tackle more complex maneuvers and patterns. First, study the exercises in your favorite chair and ride them in your mind before you head out to the arena. That way you will reap the great benefits of pre-performance visualization. Read a good book on riding to be sure you are riding correctly. Refer to the appendix for some suggestions.


1. Work regularly with a qualified instructor. (See the appendix for books on how to select and work with an instructor.)

2. Ask a qualified person to stand on the ground, observe your exercises, and report to you what he or she sees. For example, where the right hind was during a particular movement.

3. Have someone record your exercises on videotape. Then watch the tape carefully using slow motion and freeze frame.

4. As you ride, watch yourself and your horse in large mirrors on the wall.

5. Without moving your head, glance down at your horse’s shoulders, neck, poll, and eye during different maneuvers to determine if he is correct up front.

6. Ultimately, the key is to develop a feel for when things are going right and when they are going wrong by utilizing all of the above feedback techniques. Answer the following by feeling, not looking:

Is there appropriate left to right balance on my seat bones? Can I feel them both?

Can I feel even contact on both reins?

Is the front to rear balance acceptable or is the horse heavy on the forehand, croup up, back hollow?

Is the rhythm regular or does the horse speed up, slow down, or break gait?

Is my horse relaxed or is his back tense?

Is he on the bit or above or behind it?

Am I posting on the correct diagonal?

Is my horse cantering on the correct lead?

Can I tell when his inside hind leg is about to land?

Can I tell when my horse is performing a four-beat lope or canter?

Can I tell when my horse is walking in front and trotting behind?

Can I tell when my horse is performing a pacey walk?

In a few of the early exercises, I have diagrammed the exercises in both directions. Be sure that you eventually perform every exercise in both directions.

Whenever possible, ride off the rail so your horse is being held in position by your aids, not by the rail. The true test of your training will come when you perform these exercises in an unenclosed flat spot in your pasture!

Although it might seem like some exercises are more appropriate for a reining horse and others for an upper level dressage horse, all horses can benefit from all of the exercises. The dressage horse that is “bound up” can be loosened up by some of the traditional Western-style exercises. And the Western horse that is a bit of a runaway can benefit from the proper form and collection inherent in dressage exercises. So, I invite you to experiment and improvise.

How many times should you repeat an exercise? This can vary from once or twice to infinity! With lead changes, backing, pirouettes, and so on, repetition often causes boredom and invites problems. Such maneuvers are best saved for the end of your arena ride when the horse is thoroughly warmed up and prepared. Then you can ask for a few repetitions of these more advanced maneuvers. Transitions, circles, and shoulder in, however, are the mainstay of your horse’s arena program and should be repeated often.


1. Review each component of an exercise.

2. You might need to return to some very basic exercises to establish forward movement, acceptance of contact, or response to sideways driving aids. Returning to simple circle work will often improve straightness and subsequently improve lateral work and collection.

3. Ride an exercise that the horse does very well, such as the walk-trot-walk transition. Work on purity and form. Don’t think you are wasting your time. I have seen $150-an-hour instructors work on walk-trot transitions with Grand Prix riders!

4. Perform a simpler version of the exercise. If it is a canter exercise, try it at a walk or trot first. In some cases, I have offered variations, but you will be able to create many of your own.

5. Perform the exercise in the opposite direction. Sometimes, because of an inherent stiffness or crookedness in a horse, you will have difficulty with an exercise to the left but no problems to the right! Capitalize on this by refining your skills and the application of your aids in the “good” direction and then return to the “hard” direction with a renewed sense of what needs to be done. I often find that doing work to the right improves work to the left.


Short end or far end: end of the arena across from the gate or across from the starting point of most exercises.

Gate end: the short end of the arena with the gate, or the end used as the starting point for most of the exercises.

Up the long side: from the gate end to the far short end.

Down the long side: from the far short end to the gate end.

(Up or down the) Center line: from the midpoint of one short end of the arena to the midpoint of the other short end.

(Up or down the) Quarter line: from one short end to the other on a line halfway between the rail and the center line.

Across the arena or across the school: from the midpoint of one long side to the midpoint of the other long side.

Across the long diagonal: (see Exercise #32).

Across the short diagonal: (see Exercise #33).

Track right: ride along the rail, making right turns. This can be confusing in a show or lesson when you’re told to come in the gate and track right and you have to turn left to do so (as in the arena pictured in this book).

Track left: ride along the rail, making left turns.

Stride: one complete revolution of the horse’s legs in the footfall pattern of the gait in which he is performing (see Gaits).

Step: one beat in a gait. There are several steps in each stride. A step may involve more than one leg (see Gaits).

Inside: generally refers to the inside of the bend of the horse’s body, which is also usually the inside of the arena. For example, when tracking to the right with normal bend, the inside is the right — the side toward the inside of the arena. However, when a horse is counter-bent or performing a counter-canter, the inside aids might be on the outside of the arena. For example, if tracking right on the left lead performing a counter-canter, the inside aids would be the left aids, yet they would be located on the outside (rail) of the arena.

Outside: generally refers to the outside of the bend of the horse’s body, which is also usually the outside of the arena. See above.


Begin by measuring your arena.

If you are a dressage rider, setting up a small or large dressage ring with properly positioned letters will help you determine the size of figures.

For nondressage arenas, make a mark or use ribbon or flagging tape on the arena rail every ten feet to help you gauge the size of your figures. Your starting point can be one end of a rail or the middle of that rail.

Walk in a normal stride and measure your own stride. Two steps usually equal five feet. Use this when placing cones as markers for circles or other maneuvers.

Use hydrated lime sprinkled on the ground for a temporary marker.



The arena used in the maps is 200 feet by 120 feet.



It takes 26 strides to trot a 20-meter circle; 13 strides to trot a 10-meter circle.

To ride 100 feet down the long side, it takes:

18 strides at a working walk.

12–13 strides at a working trot.

10 strides at an extended trot.

12–13 strides at a working canter.

Horses in the arena maps in this book are not necessarily drawn to scale for all exercises. In some cases they were made larger or smaller for clarity.





Note: Horses vary greatly in their stride lengths. Use the following information as a guideline.



working walk . . . . . . . . . . . .

collected walk .....................

extended walk . . . . . . . . . . .

working trot - - - - - - - - - - - -

collected trot - - - - - - - - - - - -

extended trot ___ ____ ___ ___

canter _____________


halt X

half halt

transition within a gait _______ l _______


Half halts should be used before, during, and after every transition; before, during, and after every corner; periodically throughout any movement to re-balance the horse. Half halts are not indicated on the arena maps everywhere they should be used.

In order for the exercises to produce positive results, a horse must be ridden “on contact,” “on the bit,” “on the aids,” “bridled up,” or whatever term you are accustomed to hearing and using. In essence, these various ways of describing the communication between rider and horse mean that the horse moves forward from leg aids and accepts and responds willingly to pressures on his mouth via the bit and bridle. Refer to the books recommended in the appendix for a more thorough discussion of these principles.


A gait is any of the footfall patterns of a horse, such as a walk, trot, canter, or gallop. A gait is like a simple musical piece written in its own specific time. Every horse expresses each gait in his own particular tempo and style. Some horses have one or two gaits that do not have an even, precise rhythm. It is the goal of riding exercises to develop a regular rhythm in each gait and therefore to develop the purity of the gait.

A working gait is the ordinary gait of an average horse that is moving in balance and with a regular rhythm and average impulsion.

A collected gait is performed at the same tempo as the working gait but has a shorter, more elevated stride with a longer support phase, and therefore it covers less ground than a working gait.

An extended gait is performed at the same tempo as the working gait but has a longer stride with more reach and an increased period of suspension, and therefore it covers more ground than a working gait. A lengthening is a stage on the way to an extended gait.

At the Halt


Note: In each question, the desirable is mentioned first.

Is your breathing deep and regular, or are you holding your breath?

Is there equal weight on both seat bones, or is it difficult to feel one of them? Are your seat bones in the deepest part of the saddle, or are you braced against the cantle?

Are your hip bones directly over your seat bones, or are they behind your seat bones in the “Cadillac” position?

Is your lower back relaxed, or is it braced and tense?

Is your upper body above your hips, or is it leaning extremely forward or backward?

Is there a straight line from your shoulder through your hip to your heel, or are your legs way in front of your body? Are you slumped forward or leaning back?

Are your shoulders back, or are they rounded forward?

Is your sternum lifted upward, or is it collapsed inward?

Are your shoulders level, or is one higher than the other?

Are your head and neck straight, or are they tilted to one side or rolling forward?

Are your eyes looking straight ahead, or are they looking down?

Are your thighs relaxed, or are they gripping or forcibly stretching?

Do you have appropriate lower leg contact, or are you holding your lower legs away from your horse?

Can you see just the toe of your boot when you glance down at your foot, or is most of your foot and part of your lower leg visible?

Is there equal weight in each of your stirrups?

Are your hands at an even, appropriate level? Is there a direct line from the bit to your elbows?

Is there even contact on the reins?

If your horse suddenly disappeared out from under you, would you topple over when you landed on the ground, or would you stand?

A horse stands square at the halt when he is allowed to position his legs comfortably underneath himself in accordance with his conformation.


The halt should be square and balanced with the horse’s legs under his body. The halt is a perfect time to check your position before you begin moving your horse.

It is a privilege to ride. It is a responsibility to ride correctly. Close your eyes. Do you feel balanced?


The halt is necessary for training-level dressage and all Western competitions.

If your horse halts square, he will tend to move forward in balance.


A young horse might find it difficult to stand square and still under your weight and might move around trying to find a comfortable way to support your weight on his still undeveloped back. Sit quietly balanced, and gradually extend the period of time you require the young horse to stand square and still.


Develop your own personal mental checklist so that when you first mount, you can evaluate and correct your basic position. Only then will you be able to proceed correctly with the exercises in this book.

Working Walk



  • "101 Arena Exercises is an invaluable workbook for trainers, instructors and coaches interested in exploring new teaching methods." - The Collection

    "…she has choreographed more tasks than you could possibly master if you spent the rest of your summer working through her book." - Horses USA

On Sale
Jan 9, 1995
Page Count
224 pages

Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill

About the Author

Cherry Hill is an internationally known instructor and horse trainer and has written numerous books, including 101 Arena Exercises for Horse & Rider, Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage, How to Think Like a Horse, What Every Horse Should Know, and Horse Care for Kids. Visit her at http://www.horsekeeping.com, where you can find information on her books, DVDs, and horsekeeping knowledge.

Jessica Jahiel is an internationally renowned lecturer, clinician, and award-winning author who answers equine-related questions in her online newsletter, Horse-Sense. She also responds to questions about horse behavior, riding matters, and anything else readers want to discuss in Horse & Rider, Equus, and Dressage Today, as well as in her best-selling books The Horse Behavior Problem Solver and The Rider’s Problem Solver. Jahiel lives in Illinois.

Learn more about this author