Are you having difficulty developing shoulder control, circles and consistent impulsion? The “Daisy Pattern” is a great exercise to help with these issues because it involves many turns, which encourage the shoulders to do most of the work, creating better turns.

Often when riding, you will feel your horse’s shoulders ‘leak’ and push through a turn. For instance, have you ever had a horse travel forward, even though his head was bent around toward your knee? This happens particularly when horses are spooking or bolting away from something. The Daisy Pattern, if done regularly, can help you gain a lot more shoulder control during times of speed and confusion. Benefits of this pattern include:

  • Developing focus for the rider
  • Learning to follow a pattern
  • Maintaining speed and direction
  • Gaining more control of the shoulders

Getting Started

For this pattern, you will need five cones (or other type of marker) and an arena or other large space with good footing. Create a large square, with one cone at each corner, spaced at least 12 metres (40 feet) apart. Place the fifth cone in the centre of the square.

It’s best to start this drill at a trot, or even a walk, and then work up to a canter.

Begin at the centre cone of the pattern and head to a corner cone, in our example #1. Once you get there, make a sharp left turn around the cone and head back to the centre cone.

When you arrive at the centre cone, go around it, to the left, while focusing on the next corner cone (#2) as you head toward it.

When guiding your horse into the turns, make sure you are using mostly outside rein (neck rein) and outside leg. This will encourage your horse to make the turn using his shoulder. If you were to use too much inside rein and leg, it would encourage your horse to push his hindquarters to the outside.

After you get around cone #2, head back to the centre, then go around cone #3. If your horse feels good, you will go around the last cone #4, stop straight, and then head back to the centre cone. After the final cone, it is important to stop before heading back to the centre cone because you want to finish on a straight line in order to keep both you and your horse balanced, rather than crooked.

If your horse feels like he has not made much improvement after completing the pattern, simply head back to cone #1 and continue until you find a good place to stop (thereby rewarding your horse). If your horse learns to do this pattern well, you can go around the pattern several times.

Note that if, as in our example, you are doing your circles to the left, you will travel all the way around the pattern (all four corner cones) to the left, and keep all of your cones on your left side (and vice versa for going right). It’s best to go just one way until you and your horse find your groove, which could take a couple sessions, before switching directions.

Challenge Yourself

Once you feel that you are both steady and relaxed, you can then increase your speed and canter through the pattern. The first couple of sessions may not go as well as they did at a trot. However, the key is in following through. By sticking to a plan and following this simple pattern, you and your horse will learn to get better. I normally give a new pattern at least three or four sessions before I expect any significant changes, so don’t get discouraged. Giving your horse time to develop and perfect skills is very important to his development.

The toughest part of the pattern is maintaining consistent speed all of the way around the centre cone every time and staying on course. It seems like a simple pattern on paper, but you will find that it takes a little extra focus and effort to be truly effective. If you find that you become efficient with this exercise, you can always make things a little more challenging by adding more cones to circle around. You can also challenge yourself and your horse by trying to stay on a loose rein for as long as possible using just your outside leg when circling cones.

Keys for Success

  • Maintain a consistent speed and gait around your turns and on the straight sections.
  • Guide your horse through the turns using mostly outside rein, rather than inside rein.
  • Stop on a good note and continue the pattern until your horse is relaxed.
  • Allow your horse to make mistakes, but reward him (by stopping) for trying.
  • Stay focused on the pattern.