Friday May 7, 2021
For National Pony Club updates and information please go to

A few ideas for ‘schooling without an arena’ – from Jani Tulloch

There has been a request for a few ideas for exercises and schooling, when you do not have access to an arena and the fields are too wet.  All the suggestions below are ideally done on a quiet road or lane, though you will find the better your schooling is achieved, the safer and more responsive your pony will be to ride on a busier road.

Whilst out hacking, it is a fantastic opportunity to firstly concentrate on your own position.

Are you sitting up straight?
Are your eyes looking up and ahead?
Are your elbows relaxed and is there a straight line from your elbows to your pony’s mouth?
Are your thumbs on top?
Is your lower leg underneath you, lying gently against your pony’s side?
Are your stirrups on the balls of your feet and toes pointing forwards?
Is your weight falling gently into your heel, to enable you to have a secure lower leg?
 Hacking may best be done at a show jumping stirrup length, as it enables you to stay in balance if your pony suddenly reacts to a situation.

When you are happy that your position is secure and in good balance, you can then start concentrating on how your pony is going.

On the whole a pony goes more willingly forward out hacking than they might do in a school.

Work on your pony being truly straight, between your hand and leg.
So, what does this really mean?  This means that your pony is not pulling or leaning on one rein more than another and is listening to both of your legs, not drifting.

The walk should be purposeful, but not jogging and the trot should be in an even rhythm, the same as you would like in a dressage arena.  To obtain an even rhythm you can test yourself, by counting your rhythm out loud.
       When you have achieved a good rhythmical trot, add a walk transition. Think forwards into a good active walk, ensuring your pony remains straight between your hand and leg. Walk for 4 or 5 steps and then make a good active upward transition back into your rhythmical trot.  This can be repeated as often as you wish.
 When you feel that your pony has achieved straightness, you can try some leg yielding.
What is this? Whilst in walk, with your pony even in both reins, press with your right leg and ask him to move sideways across the road, away from the pressure from your right leg. He can have a very slight bend to the right, but ideally wants to remain as straight in his body as is possible. Check that your position is good and that he is not moving away because you are either tipping your body or taking him across with your hand. This can then be repeated with your left leg. Make sure that you ride your pony forward and straight in between each asking of the leg yield.


When you feel that the pony has been responsive in walk, the leg yielding exercise can be done in trot. Concentrating on keeping the same even rhythm that you have achieved in stage 3.  Sometimes a pony will begin to anticipate the leg yielding, if you feel he is doing this ride some straight periods, to check that he listens enough to your leg to stay straight, as well as going sideways.

We hack all our horses a lot, especially at the moment, as our arena has been out of action. On the whole the horses are more forward, but can also be a bit more distracted out hacking.  It is an ideal opportunity to see how much you can influence their concentration and if they become truly responsive to you out hacking, not only do they become safer to ride, it also gives you a much better chance to get them listening when you are out and about at a competition, when there also might be plenty of distractions.