I like to think of fun, easy exercises to spice up our indoor time and still work the horses and give them a change from going in circles. Now, I am not saying that these are new and ingenious things, perhaps they are some of the oldest tricks in the book, but it just gives the horses something different to do, and still work on muscles that you do outside on varying terrain or up and down hills.
#1 - trot cavalletti, as just rails and on the ground or raised
You can set them to maintain consistency at a comfortable length, a little long to make them stretch, or a little short to gain more impulsion. If you want to get really tricky you can sent them to build or compress stride length. I love raised cavalletti set comfortable or a hair short to really work on getting the push from behind. This has really helped me in my efforts to keep my coming 25 yo TB sound and fit.
#2 - canter poles
Set as single rails, bounces, one stride, or lines that can vary in striding (45' for instance varied from 3, 4, 5, or 6 strides if you are really good!). Also a good way to keep things interesting. Use them on the diagonal to help clean up lead changes, or just as something else to do
#3 - raised canter poles
This is my current "flavor of the week". No different than a very small vertical, minus the ground lines, this has really helped in my training of my developing coming 5 yo TB Jolie (who can be seen below) and also in keeping my older 25yo TB (mentioned previously) working from behind.
My 5yo is naturally under herself, but gets a little wiley. She is very happy to stay in a consistent pace but has trouble finding that pace, and hates any sort of micro-management. Setting one strides for her allows for me to make minor adjustments coming up to the exercise and then allow for the exercise to maintain the pace I want to strengthen a correct way of going without me interfering. Some people argue that you shouldn't let the exercise do the work, but there are some horses that want it to be their idea all the time. If THEIR idea isn't always correct, but they think it is and a fight is created every time you correct the bad idea, it's only going backwards. Especially if strength and balance are part of the issue, I feel it's better to teach the balance and the strength through an easily understood exercise and make the good balance, and proper way of going THEIR idea.
Some might argue this next point as well, but I am a FIRM believer that the more consistent and challenging a program is for an older horse (within reason) the longer they will last. I am not saying that because I used to compete through 3'6" that I'm going to go school that everyday or once a week even, with my older horse. Instead, I will create flatwork exercises that work on suppleness and impulsion (ie. trot poles, raised cavalletti, shoulder in, haunches in, leg yield at w/t/c, half pass if we are feeling very supple, etc.) and work 5 to 6 days a week. Now I am not blind to the needs of an older horse. If Oz isn't feeling it one day, we might not do leg yield at canter, or canter at all, but we still get out and work the walk and work the trot and push a little. The second a horse gets tentative about it's ability due to age, I think it all declines from there, but if you push a little and know they CAN do what you're asking its a confidence booster and I think it keeps the old guys feeling young and fresh. I do jump probably once every week to 10 days in the summer months but maybe once or twice a month in the winter, and not big. If they are completely ON one day, I might max the fences on that ONE day but that's it...
Anyway, there are lots of fun things to do even when you are stuck inside four walls...
Oh yeah, two more things I forgot: riding with friends and riding to music, always a good way to keep riding inside fun and interesting!!