Go To Exercises for Increasing Adjustability

I always love picking everyone’s brain here for new exercises, adds a little extra inspiration to the winter training repertoire.

What are you favourite exercises for increasing your ‘whoa’ and adjustability in your mid-high level jumpers?

Background. I’ve recently acquired a higher level jumper that is ready to step down. Knows his job but needs to learn retirement is supposed to be easier. We aren’t riding the grand prixs anymore.

Previously ridden in a bit, hack combo, I’ve dialled back to a Snaffle. Good kind guy, just likes to go and work.

Currently working with lots of transitions, serpentines, smaller circles to slow the pace without needing a pull, poles, changing direction, lateral work etc. All are working slowly to retrain the brain.

Looking to add new items to keep him interested and not interested in bitting up at this time. All we have is time.

Transitions within the gaits.

Waiting line exercise.


Create a line of two ground poles, about 5 or 6 strides apart. Practice adding, leaving out a stride or just riding the normal striding (always deciding well in advance which it will be and not just deciding to leave a stride out because the horse happens to be strung out). It’s really good for developing a feel for the different strides, and you can also do it at the walk or trot. It also gives you immediate feedback in any gait about whether you were able to correctly shorten or lengthen the stride.


I like to start this one on a bending line. You can ride it straight or ride it bending. Use the bend in the body and the track for control to avoid just pulling with both reins all the time.

Two poles on a circle also can help with controlling pace and track.

How broke is this horse on the flat generally? Counter canter to jumps can also help to regulate the horse if the counter canter is pretty reliable to ride.

If super rideable on the flat, working canter to canter pirouette (quarter or half turn) back to working canter is a challenging exercise. Bonus points if you have a lot of room and can throw in a little lengthening in between.


I love to lengthen and shorten randomly. Extend down the long side, shorten half way. Don’t be predictable. Where most people would say shorten or lengthen, say the opposite.

The two pole exercise is great for this too, as is the three pole exercise if your arena is big enough. Long through the first two, shorten and add on the second two.


These are amazing responses thank you so much!! Truly appreciate these, gives me new ideas when we can’t truck out to lessons.

I would consider him very well schooled on the flat, just a bit tough in the mouth and maybe not as well schooled to the seat. Yesterday we did lots of forward and back in the gaits, shoulder in and SI to side pass, changes on the serpentine, then thinking of almost passage and then forward. He’s got flexibility in the body just not quite as responsive as I would like to see personally.

Not to mention I am petite so very likely that his previous taller rider hit different areas so some mixed signals are possible on my end.

He is mega smart and dedicated so these new ideas will help immensely, thank you!


He sounds super fun!


I recommend giving RideIQ a try. There are lessons for every need and have found it super helpful when you have specifics you want to work on!


To this end, one of my favorites is extending through the ends of the ring/around a turn and collecting down a straight way. Helps a ton in a handy or jump-off where the inclination is to lose impulsion through a turn and build on a long run.

I also like working in collection - working - extension transitions within the gaits. I test the improvement in adjustability by setting the strides in each. So I may start asking for 9 strides in working trot, 9 strides collection, 9 strides working trot, 9 strides extension, 9 strides working trot. And then do it through 8 strides, then 7, then 6, etc.

If you have access to a dressage trainer you could take lessons or clinic with, that may also be fun. I do monthly dressage lessons with my jumper and its been really helpful in how I ride him over a course.


Oh great idea!!! Thank you! I didn’t even think of that.

He is a blast, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to own him.
Having made my own horses for the last 20 years, finding and reinstalling buttons in a way I prefer is a new one but he’ll teach me more than I could ever ask for.

These new ideas are very inspiring, very much appreciate them.

I’m hoping to gain access to a few good trainers in the spring once everyone is back from Florida.
Crossing fingers.

Thank you all!!!


Ok, since he’s pretty well schooled on the flat, some other exercises to get him a little more off the hand and onto the seat –

Head to the wall leg yield. Like a shoulder out without bend. The wall helps contain the forward. It’s a baby exercise for one that’s not good with sideways, but it can help you lighten the hand and use more seat bones.

Leg yield to the wall into shoulder in. In trot and canter.

Half pass to shoulder in to half pass, stair stepping across the arena.

Shoulder in, 10m circle into haunches in.

Spiral in on the circle in all gaits. Then leg yield out to the track and open the stride and/or (if coming from trot) into canter.

Stay on a circle and switch on the circle from SI, HI, travers, renvers.


I just realized you were the OP hahaha! I’ll send you some good exercises lol


Lmao thank you so much, or I can pay you for retraining buttons :rofl: hint hint :rofl:

These are awesome exercises thank you so much!

Tried a few of these yesterday and they were instrumental through the trot. Canter will take time and thoughtful effort on my end to reprogram.

Not the OP but want to say thank you to those who actually shared/described exercises. This thread has been an interesting & educational read.


Transitions transitions transitions. Challenge yourself to ride 50 transitions (or more) a day. Set a goal and COUNT them. On my big, strong, leaning horse I may do a transition (up or down) every time I feel him lose balance, lose focus, or lose impulsion. That may be after 5 strides, or 3 strides, or 10 strides. Transitions within gaits also count towards your total. Transitions between 2 gaits (trot/halt, walk/canter, canter/halt) count double (+2). Every time the horse feels heavy, use your seat, shoulder, leg, and finally hand to ask for a downward transition.

Make every transition the best you can. Don’t worry about where his head is, or how soft his mouth is in the beginning. Just ride it well: straight, no pulling, no leaning. Good body control from YOU, as well-- don’t forget to let go! Don’t forget to use leg, especially in downwards! Ask his hind legs to step under and lift the shoulder in every transition. It will be ugly in the beginning, and that’s fine. Just keep trying, and insist that the transitions keep happening with a minimum improvement each time.

Doesn’t matter where you are in the arena; transition. On circles, on centerlines, on diagonal lines, on serpentines, in corners. Sometimes pick a point to perform the transition, and work on setting him up for it. Other times, ride the transition when his balance calls for it-- RIGHT NOW, not 3 strides later when he’s even heavier on your hands.

I find that after the first 25 transitions, things get easier. The horse starts to realize…hey, I may need to pay attention today because AT ANY MOMENT I may need to use my butt, sit down and halt (or walk, or canter). They start to listen to your seat, and your half-halt starts to be “heard” and respected. The heavy ones get lighter. The hot ones calm down. The lazy ones get more responsive and lighter to the leg. Correct transitions really can fix just about any balance problem, and over time they will increase strength, too.

After you are bored to tears from transitions, work on poles. Karen O’Connor used to ask her students to canter a line of 6 bounce poles. Novice/Training level horses set at 9ft apart (standard, ordinary distance). Preliminary horses needed to shorten to 8ft apart. Intermediate event horses set at 7ft apart. And Advanced eventers set at 6ft apart-- requiring a VERY collected, light, bouncy canter, and self-control (from horse and rider!) is mandatory. If they rush at all, lose balance, they will mess their way through the poles. If you have the ground help, start at 9ft apart and roll them in 6 inches or a foot as the horse does them successfully.


As other suggested doing a line while adding/subtracting strides is a great exercise.

Enhance it by doing three ground poles/cavaletti/jumps set in a line equidistant from each other. If it’s a true 4 to 4, do it in 4 to 4. Then do 5 to 5. Then 5 to 4. 4 to 5. Back to 5 to 4. Etc.

Think about making all the strides in the line the same length. Your goal should be the get the adjustment done as early as you can in the line— if you feel like you can soften your hands the last stride doing the add 5 instead of feeling like you’re waterskiing and pulling the whole time to fit 5 you’re doing it right! Conversely, you should feel like you can balance back the last stride when doing 4, not like you’re stretching and chasing to get there.

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Something else you can throw in when you’re doing strides between poles is a downwards transition between the poles. Canter to trot or even walk. Once you can do that well, you can transition to walk and then pick your canter back up and go over the second pole.

Linda Allen’s Book, 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse and Rider, is very good.