Or, the pinwheel of death.
Baseball players do it, and so should we! If you’ve taken it easy over the winter, now is the time to shake the cobwebs off.
As we have discussed, circles are a great training tool. Riding a perfect circle is on my bucket list. Once you’ve mastered this exercise, you can move on to….the pinwheel of death.
Sounds like fun, right?
This exercise may look straightforward at first, but it has a way of magnifying problems with rhythm, straightness, and turning– basically, the most important aspects of jumping.
My coach once said, “if you can do this exercise on any horse, at any height, you can do anything.”
He may be exaggerating ever so slightly, but this exercise is very valuable to prepare you and your horse for a summer of jumping.
The Pinwheel of Death (I didn’t name it, I swear) is especially great if you’re confined to a small space, or only have a few fences.
I place a pole on the ground, and then pace out four canter strides on a curve. Four regular human walking steps equals one horse canter stride. This article provides a useful illustration.
After I place the second pole, I go back to the first pole. I pace out four canter strides on a curve in the opposite direction. I place this third pole evenly from the second pole- you should be able to walk a straight line between the end of the second and third pole.
Are you still with me?
From the third pole, pace out four more canter strides on a curve and place the fourth pole directly across from the first pole. Like the second and third, you should be able to walk a straight line between the end of the first pole and the end of the final pole.
It’s a perfect circle!
Walk from the middle of each pole and confirm you have indeed paced out four even canter strides between the poles. It’s really important that the striding is precise. If you’ve never done this exercise before, it might be a good idea to start with five or more strides between fences, if spacing permits.
So here you are, staring down the barrel of four fences on a circle. You can start by just trotting over the poles. Ride the middle, to the middle, to the middle, to the middle. Keep your stride the same. Ride out with your inside leg, and square back with you outside aids. What could be more simple?
In the canter, this exercise will magnify the weak spots in your flatwork. If your horse is stiff on one side, they will “fall in” against your inside aids, and you won’t be able to fit in those four strides. If your horse isn’t receptive to your outside aids, you won’t be able to ride to middle of each fence, and you’ll end up getting five strides. If you have issues with pace, or changing your stride length, that complicates things further. It’s called the pinwheel of death for a reason. Keep it simple, start with small cross rails.
Here, Lindsay doesn’t start off with quite enough canter. Even though she rides from middle to middle, her canter stride isn’t quite enough to make four. You can see her pick up the pace after fence number two, and she easily makes four strides around the rest of the circle.
Alyshia does a great job of making four even steps, but you can see how hard she’s working. It’s a challenge for riders of all levels.
I love this exercise for its emphasis on the fundamental skills of jumping. And, it will bring you one step closer to riding the perfect circle! What could be more exciting?
I hope the pinwheel of death is a valuable addition to your toolbox! Happy riding!