I stole this riding exercise from Ronnie Mutch (the best clinician I have ever had the privilege to ride under), many, many years ago. All you need are two jump rails and ideally an arena. Although you could perform it without one, it would be much more challenging.
Simply place a pole perpendicular to the arena fence at the end of the ring, then place the second pole about 30′ away from the other one. This number can vary greatly depending on the size and greeness of your horse. Start off with a greater distance between the poles if your horse is struggling to make the turn. Decrease the distance a bit as you have more success.
Warm your horse up well and begin by trotting the poles to familiarize your horse with the pattern. I would start on my horses better side to give him the best shot at understanding the exercise. Remember, they always follow the path of least resistance that’s our mantra!
At first you will find it difficult to get to the center of the pole. Resist with the outside rein and leg if your horse is falling to the outside and remain in a sitting position. Use your inside aids to help create straightness, we are not looking for an inside bend at this time. You will also find the distance to the pole changing each time you ride to it unless you and your horse are superstars in which case you probably don’t need to practice this particular exercise.
I want you to think about riding a rectangle not a circle. Work on squaring your turns and using the entire space inside that rectangle. As your horse becomes more comfortable with the pattern, start to shorten your reins and begin to ask for a steady collected canter. Whether you ride it at a medium or collected canter, the idea is to make each stride on the rectangle the same length. As you accomplish this, you will start to reach a consistent distance to the pole each time and you will start to see the distance from further back as you trust the length of stride. Change directions when your horse has a few good rounds so he is rewarded for his efforts. Always stay aware of your horses physical state. Is he breathing easily, not becoming tired, starting to trip etc.
When you are able to travel your rectangle several times in a row in both directions, with a consistent canter, no swerving, no missed distances to the pole, you have succeeded! What have you and your horse learned from this exercise? Would really like to hear your answers!!
Ronnie loved to keep things straight forward and simple. Just the way a horse likes it! I thank you for your time Mr. Mutch. The horse world is all the better for you having been it.