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Flatwork February #7: The Countdown

‘The Countdown’ is excellent for improving your horse’s reaction to your aids, ensuring they are in front of your leg, and getting them to engage with their hind end before you start to attempt more complex exercises.

How to ride the countdown

Like many of the exercises we have spoken about, the countdown is centred around transitions. You can do them both between paces and within paces. We advise you to start this exercise with walk and trot and then build up to the canter.
As an example:
  • Start in trot and do a walk transition when you are ready. Walk for 10 steps and return to trot for 10 steps before transitioning down to walk for 10 steps. Repeat this until you can do 10 step transitions smoothly and accurately.
  • Next walk for 9 steps and then return to trot for 9 steps before transitioning down to walk for 9 steps.
  • Continue with this pattern until you are doing two steps of each gait. You can even try and get one step of each, but this is super tricky!
You can also do ‘The Countdown’ within paces; so you extend the trot for 10 paces and then collect for 10 paces etc.
The nice thing with the countdown, like all of these exercises, is that you can adjust it to suit you and your horse.
If you do not feel your horse is strong enough or ready for two steps, you can ‘count down’ until they are comfortable. It is all about building reactivity and engagement and as your horse becomes more in front of your leg, it will be easier to ‘count down’.