How to Ride a 5-Meter Loop
A 5-meter loop is a shallow serpentine and is a very suitable figure to ride during warm up, and on young horses, as it demands changes of bend without too extreme a change of direction, so minimizing the likelihood of loss of balance or alignment to the figure (straightness).
The shape of a 5-meter loop
First, you should understand the desired shape of a 5-meter loop.
Obviously, it will be different riding it in a short (20m x 40m) arena to riding it in a long (20m x 60m) arena.
In the large arena, it is a very simple exercise, as the bend and minimal direction changes are spread out over a great distance, so come up on you less quickly.
In the short arena you will have less time to make the bend and direction change aids, so you must be more on the ball.
First, let’s revise the dimensions of the arena to arrive at the figure shape.
The loop will begin at one of the quarter markers – F, K, H or M. The goal is to travel from there to arrive at the quarter line, which is 5-meters in from the track, and 5-meters m from the centre line, directly in front of one of the half markers, E or B.
You then return to the track, taking care not to arrive more than one stride before the next quarter marker, so that your inward and return lines are symmetrical in shape and length.
The exercise should be a series of gradual curves, not a straight line to a sharp turn.
How to ride a 5-meter loop
Let’s take an example of riding on the left rein, a loop between F and M.
Begin the movement by riding off the track directly from F – do not allow your horse to cling to the track and drift past the marker; you should be leaving the track by the time your own body passes F.
Make the turn by turning your torso to the left a bit more than you did during the preceding corner, and putting a little more weight into your left stirrup.
The turn of your upper body will have brought your left (inside) hand slightly away from his shoulder to lead him inward, and your right (outside) hand inward and forward, to control the shoulder while allowing the bend.
Aim at a point just a couple of meters before your midpoint, which is 5-meters in from B (on the quarter line, halfway between B and X).
About halfway between leaving the track and arriving at this midpoint, change your diagonal and begin to change your horse’s bend until he arrives at the quarter line already in a right bend and performing a gentle right-hand curve at the peak of your loop. Ask for this by reversing your upper body position so it is now turning towards the right, and your weight is slightly more in your right stirrup.
As you arrive at the halfway point between the peak of the loop and your end goal (M), change your diagonal again and once more reverse your body position – shoulders turning left and weight in the left stirrup, so that you arrive at M in left bend, all ready to travel around the next corner.
Changing your diagonal
There is no absolute rule about changing diagonal during this shallow loop – it is not absolutely essential, but I find it logical to do so as you are asking the horse to change bend and direction, so making the change of diagonal as well as changing body position helps to make the whole thing more clear.
A 5-meter loop is an ideal exercise for young horses or for more experiences horses during warming up.
It should not include any straight lines or sharp turns, but instead be a series of gradual curves and changes of bend – the degree of bend required will differ depending on the size of the arena.
- How to (and Why You Should) Ride on the Correct Diagonal
- How to Ride a Serpentine
- How to Get Your Horse to Bend
- What is the Difference Between Bend and Flexion?