This is in response to a direct request for exercises that require as little equipment as possible, important when you have little time and/or have to put away your meagre supply of poles and stands after each session.
Two poles on the ground, a random distance apart.
You can do a lot with these, working on the canter, making sure to meet the poles exactly in the middle of the stride (not always easy!), and getting various numbers of strides between them, i.e. adding and then taking away strides, working on getting the correct feel on the corner before to come out of it with the correct canter for the number of strides you’ve planned – i.e. the correct stride length. You can also come in from a stronger canter and then close down the canter after the first pole, or come in quietly and then push on after the first pole – all VERY useful for XC in particular, when you’ll need your horse to be instantly reactive to the aids to adjust the stride if necessary, if the jump in wasn’t exactly as you’d planned.
A single upright in the middle of the school, jumpable both ways.
Looping back and forth over this, from different short and long approaches, straight and working on angles, can be a whole session. You can do a figure of 8, making the loops as tight as possible, for moments when you might need to take a long route and be as economical as possible about it. The height doesn’t really matter, but you can put it up a bit 1/2 way through to make it more interesting!
You can also play with counting the number of strides you will take to get to the fence.
I was told by one of her owners that Piggy French can be told a random number (say ‘forty five’ or ‘twenty seven’) and will set off from that spot and take exactly that number of strides before the jump. That’s some trick. No wonder she’s so good at the SJ phase!
Two uprights, at a slight angle, a fair distance apart.
You can play with curving lines of various sizes, looping back from one to another, and taking them both on the angle, at different canters. Loads of variation is possible with just two uprights.
Concentrate on rhythm, meeting the fences exactly in the middle no matter which approach you took, and your position. Experimenting with different releases to see which the horse prefers is also very easy to do and useful, some horses will not truly bascule and feel confident to use their bodies unless they are given a huge amount of freedom in the air, others prefer a little support.