I love serpentines! They are probably my favorite pattern to teach in lessons (mounted and unmounted) and to ride on my own. Serpentines are easy to do in a group lesson, require minimal or no equipment and can be done in a small or large space. They are versatile and can be scaled for any level of rider.
Serpentines work on balance, steering, straight lines, and changing rein. Riders need to be able to balance through the turns which engages the core and lower body. They need to use their reins while turning and then keep the horse in a straight line and use the opposite rein on the next turn. This engages the body and the mind in a seemingly simple task.
Serpentines change direction each turn which means riders need to use the left and right rein and left and right arms. If riders do not know their left from right, this is a good way to start teaching it or reinforcing it in lessons. Frequent changes of direction work on equilateral strength and enhance balance. The straight line of the serpentine requires riders to know what a straight line is and use their lower body to keep the horse straight. This is a good time to scale the pattern.
If a rider is more advanced, focus on the straight line and the bend so the horse is bending around the turn, not just being turned around by the head. Make the line straight, not curvy. Scale down from there to a leader bending the horse and sidewalkers assisting with balance.
Some helpful tools are cones to make the bend – I recommend several small cones in a “C” shape to outline the bend rather than one cone that riders will turn around. Using poles as the lane for the straight line is also helpful because it provides a visual cue.
Do you use serpentines in lessons? Do you focus more on patterns or games? How do you scale patterns? Let me know in the comments below!