If you and your horse find it difficult to gain enthusiasm for schooling or perhaps, you are just running out of ideas of new things to try, we have some exercises suggested by top dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer to help.

1. Less is more

Set out two markers, or choose two arena letters and count how many walk or canter strides your horse takes between them. Then encourage your horse to take smaller steps so you can ride more strides between the markers. To achieve smaller steps, sit up and keep a contact on the reins, but use your leg aids to create energy at the same time. This exercise will develop a horse's balance and self-carriage so he lightens his forehand.

2. Cover more ground

This is the opposite to the first exercise. Working in walk or canter again, ask for more power so that your horse covers more ground. It's not about speed though, it is about the horse learning to power himself forward from the hindquarters. This exercise builds up strength so you can get more out of your horse's 'engine'. If you alternate between riding bigger strides and then smaller ones, like in exercise one, you'll be able to adjust your horse's stride more easily. 

3. Sensational spirals

Ride a 20m circle in walk, trot or canter, depending on your horse's level of training. Then use your outside leg to spiral into a smaller circle, using the outside rein to support and balance the horse. Next, use your inside aids to push the horse back out again. This exercise encourages the horse to bring his inside hindleg under his body, and push himself forward. It also lightens the forehand, so the horse is carrying himself in a better rhythm and balance. To do lateral work, a horse must be able to bring his hindleg underneath his body, so the spiralling exercise is great preparation. 

4. Adjusting the trot strides

Encourage your horse to take bigger, medium trot strides between two markers, then ask him to collect again. When you ask your horse for bigger strides, you want the hindlegs to come under the body and push him forward, so he doesn't dive onto his nose. Keep in a balanced riding position to support the horse- don't tip forward or lose the rein contact. In collected trot the aim is for the horse to 'lift up' in the pace and keep the energy. It's an amazing feeling when you get it right. 

5. Serpentine with circles

This exercise is a usual serpentine, but includes a 10m circle before you ride each loop. Riding a circle first helps you establish the bend needed for each loop before you change direction, and helps to stop the horse falling in. When you have practised the exercise in trot ride a three loop serpentine in canter, without including the 10m circles. This is a perfect first step for introducing counter-canter.