Arm circles, a seemingly simple warm-up exercise, can pose unexpected challenges for students in adaptive/therapeutic riding programs. Instructors often find that this common activity challenges the student’s coordination, balance, and motor skills than anticipated.
The Complexity of Arm Circles
Performing arm circles on a horse requires the student to do multiple things at once with their body. Students may encounter difficulties such as maintaining the motion’s circular pattern, keeping both arms straight, synchronizing the movement of both arms, establishing a consistent rhythm, and more
Tips for Improving Arm Circles
Enhance your students’ arm circle performance with these effective tips:
- Use Fun Cues: Employ cues like “Sky-Tail-Toes-Ears” to break down the arm circle positions.
- Rhythm Control: Utilize your cues’ rhythm to regulate the pace, helping riders maintain focus and preventing distractions.
- Single-Arm Start: Begin with one arm, anchoring the other hand on the saddle to prevent unintentional movement or involvement.
- Halt Practice: Begin with the student attempting the arm circles at a halt before progressing to a walk for better focus.
- Layer On/Off Speed of Gaits: When advancing from one-arm circles to both arms simultaneously, return to the halt before attempting at the walk. This allows the student to focus on the changing variable of going from one-arm circles to two-arm circles.
Adding Complexity for Advanced Riders
Arm circles are not just for beginners! They can also serve as a valuable warm-up and challenge for advanced riders:
- Symmetry & Precision Focus: Emphasize symmetry and precise execution of arm circles.
- Independent Riding: Teach riders to perform arm circles independently, incorporating rein management skills.
- Build an Independent Seat: Introduce arm circles at the trot, either with a leader or on the longe line, to enhance seat independence, build confidence, and refine hand and arm control.
Encountering challenges with arm circles in your lessons? Share your experiences and solutions in the comments below or on the Hoof Falls & Footfalls Facebook page! Let’s build a community of adaptive riding instructors supporting each other in addressing these unique hurdles.
Suggested Reading & Sources
Want to learn more about the benefits of arm circles and WHY we incorporate them into our lessons? Check out the following external resources:
- Engaging Exercises for Kids with Cerebral Palsy: Fun Ways to Boost Mobility
- Exercise of the Month: Arm Circles
- How to do Arm Circles- Form and Benefit
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** I personally chose to use the term Adaptive Riding vs. Therapeutic Riding and avoid ‘horse therapy’ at all costs. Why? CLICK HERE. The thoughts shared in the post above apply to not only Adaptive riding but also to other mounted equine activities and therapies offered at an EAAT (Equine Assisted Activity and Therapy) Program/Center/Barn.