Simple Steering Patterns

This simple set-up can be used in a few different ways to teach steering. Mix and combine them as you see fit! The following is one example of progression for direct rein steering. You can also use this pattern to teach neck reining, steering leg aids, and bending.

Arena Set Up

  • 2 barrels, one on the middle of each quarterline
  • 5 cones, down the center line

So it looks like this:


Pattern A

  • First teach direct rein steering, then practice by walking the rails and circling the barrels, in both directions.
  • This works on using one hand at a time to steer.


Pattern B

  • Progress to weaving (aka steering half circles in a row).
  • This works on using one hand at a time, right after each other.
  • The pattern below shows skipping the last cone in order to alternate directions around the arena after every cone weaving. You can have them weave the last cone too then go back on the rail in the same direction.
  • If trotting is good for your student (it focuses them, wakes them up, etc.), you can add a trot to the long wall.


Pattern C

  • Progress to combining Patterns A and B.
  • This continues to work on direct rein steering as well as memory.


Additional Progression:

  • Add a trot! If your student can trot without holding on, have them try steering at a trot through the cones. If they are very advanced, try trotting the whole pattern.
  • Take away support – less sidewalker holds, unclip the leader, etc.

Teaching Tip:

  • When riders first learn to steer around obstacles, they often look down at the obstacle. Teach them to look where they want their horse to go, instead – to look at the fence, arena letter, poster on the wall, at a stationed volunteer, etc. I don’t recommend saying “eyes up” or “look up” because I’ve had students think I mean to look at the ceiling!



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!

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