3 Step Pattern

The 3 step pattern is great! Put any number of obstacles in the arena and give your student 3 to do in a row, and repeat the pattern to work on your goal. I like it best to work on steering, memory, and/or independence.

Arena Set Up:

  • 4 cones in a line
  • 2 parallel poles
  • 1 barrel

3 step pattern


  • Student will demonstrate direct rein steering through a 3 step pattern with minimal verbal prompts for steering and no verbal prompts for pattern memory, with 1 leader 3 ft away and 1 sidewalker spotting, 2/3 times.

Lesson Plan (30 minutes):

  • Mount (3 minutes)
    • tack check
  • Warm Up  (5 minutes)
    • Upper body: arms out, shoulder twists, arm circles
    • Lower body: dead leg hang (ride with no stirrups)
    • Halt: in 2 point raise and lower heel 5 times
    • repeat the other direction
  • Teach Skill (1 minute)
    • woah in middle of arena & tack check
    • what: Direct Rein Steering
    • how: keep wrists straight and pull to hip
    • why: so can use hands effectively and strongly, to keep rein aids consistent and not confusing for horse
  • Activity: 3 Step Pattern (1 minute)
    • Explain we’re going to practice direct rein steering via a 3 step pattern
    • Point out the obstacle options: 2 point over poles, woah between poles, weave cones, woah at cones, circle barrel, woah at barrel, etc.
    • Pick a helper (leader and sidewalker) to each choose obstacle 1, pick another helper to choose obstacle 2, and the last helper picks obstacle 3
    • Review the obstacles and order (“Okay so what is obstacle 1?” and so on)
  • Practice & Progression (10 minutes)
    • 1) with leader and sidewalkers spotting
    • 2) with leader 3 ft away and 1 sidewalker spotting
    • 3) with leader unclipped but close and 1 sidewalker spotting
  • Trotting (5 minutes)
    • 2 walls each direction
  • Progression if time: add trotting to end of pattern
  • Cool Down & Dismount (5 minutes)
    • walking go over horse parts, give 2 new ones
    • woah in middle and dismount
    • pets and high fives


  • Change up the obstacles! This exercise can be used with any prop!
  • If needed, you can determine the pattern instead of the volunteers.
  • Make sure at least one step (but preferably all steps) in the pattern has to do with the skill they’re learning.
  • I love having the volunteers choose the obstacles because it involves them more! Just make sure they know all their options, and that the options have to do with your lesson objective.
  • Use this exercise for other objectives such as walk/halt transitions (woah between the poles, at each cone, etc.), memory (student will perform 3 step pattern no verbal prompts), and independence (student will perform 3 step pattern with no leader or sidewalker – as the student gets more comfortable with the pattern, strip away their support).
  • Add more steps to the pattern! Who says it has to be 3? Do a 4 step pattern, or 5, depending on your goals!



Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

3 thoughts on “3 Step Pattern

  1. I really like this lesson plan. The step-by-step outline includes the important elements in a clear order, with ways to engage the volunteer and options to teach different skills. It is really helpful to me as an instructor-in-training to have this kind of information available. This website is one of my go-to resources for information and support.

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you like this lesson plan, it’s one of my favorites because it can be adapted in so many ways. Best of luck to you with your instructing!

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