Are you lucky enough to have free access to a ménage whenever you need one? If you are June’s post on hacking out - http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-bit-or-on-buckle.html - will apply to you. Whenever you’re out of the school you should allow your horse some time out. Get off his case and just enjoying riding him.
If you have to pay or travel every time you want to school your horse you probably do more schooling when you’re out for a hack. It’s unavoidable but it’s still important that your horse gets time without pressure.
Allocate one ride to schooling. Use that ride and that ride only. When you go that way your horse will know it’s time to work. If you only have one ride to use then school on it in one direction and play in the other! Don’t let excuses get in your way.
There are loads of things you can work on without the need for a school. Check out http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2010/12/other-way-of-stopping.html to see how you can use your knee and thigh to slow, collect or stop your horse. This is one of the best things any rider can learn. And one of the easiest. It eliminates the need to use your reins to slow down or stop. The result? Your horse is softer in your hands.
Sharpen your horse up to your leg aids. There is no reason why any horse should have to be kicked every stride just to put one foot in front of the other. Check out http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2010/12/lazy-rider.html to find out how to liven your horse up to your leg. Instead of using school markers you’ll need some of your own. Anything - cat’s eyes, lamp posts, clumps of cow parsley – will do.
Riding uphill can improve your sitting trot. Don’t take your stirrups away but let them down a couple of holes. Sitting trot is uncomfortable if your horse hollows his back. Up a hill he’ll have to push harder with his hocks. He’ll be rounder in his back and easier for you to sit on.
Every curve in the road is an opportunity to bend your horse. If you’re trotting change your diagonal to match the bend. One diagonal is often more comfortable than the other. On a hack it’s easy to opt for the comfortable one but that will only increase his stiffness. Use them equally. You’ll be surprised how quickly his schooling improves.
Practise your canter transitions. (http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2011/01/riding-perfect-canter-transition.html) Never allow your horse to take three strides to get into canter. Put your outside leg back and use your inside leg to tell him to go. When you use it he must strike off. If he doesn’t, trot and ask again.
Can you tell which canter lead you’re on? Find a long stretch to canter on and look down at your horse’s shoulders. One will be reaching further forward than the other. That’s your leading leg. If the right is reaching further forward you’re in right canter.
Ask for a specific canter lead. And make sure you get it! If you ask your horse clearly he should give you the correct leg. If he doesn’t don’t lean forward, hang off to one side or kick in a panic. Trot, get him steady again and use clear aids. The aim of schooling is to strive for perfection. You’re not expecting it every time.
Are you close to the saddle on all three beats of your canter? Many riders lift up out of the saddle on the third. This gives you less control. It affects the canter and your transitions. If your horse gets stronger and stronger the further you canter this could be why. Listen to the canter and push down into the saddle for all three beats.
On quiet lanes play with moving your horse’s quarters and shoulders. Teach him the theory of moving forward with his shoulders or quarters in a different alignment.
To move your horse’s shoulders in turn your body and hands to the right. Keep your hips facing forward. Your left hand should be in front of your right hip. If your horse moves his shoulders - not just his head - to the right your contact should stay even in both hands. If he just turns his head you’ll lose the contact in your right rein.
Look in the direction you want to go NOT in the direction your horse is looking. Push him where you’re looking with your right leg. When you feel him step across ‘catch him’ on your left leg to keep his body in line with his shoulders.
When you ask your horse to move his quarters your body and hands should stay facing forward. This keeps his head, neck and shoulders straight. Your legs control his quarters. To move them in put your outside (left) leg back and push your calf against his side. He’ll swing his quarters round until he feels your inside leg. Use your inside heel to nudge him forward and he’ll walk in the direction he’s looking with his quarters in.
Schooling out hacking can be beneficial if you keep your horse’s attention. Problems arise when your horse gets bored. He’ll come up with ways to amuse himself. Use your imagination and you’ll stop him using his!
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.