The Octagon of Death
by Emily Baker
When trapped in an indoor arena all winter it can be challenging to come up with creative lesson ideas that make the best use of a smaller space. "The Octagon of Death" as this exercise has been dubbed, is one of Johnson's favorite ones. Heading into the summer months, Steve says of the lesson, "I'd love to set it up outside and we can really make it bigger," noting that it would also be great with larger distances between the jumps.
As the name implies, this exercise is comprised of 8 jumps arranged in an octagonal shape. In this smaller space the jumps were set at 32' apart. This works out to be an easy two or a very collected three stride. Riders can jump straight through the exercise or turn in the middle with the same striding in between. At various points jumps outside the octagon were also incorporated as a bending line in or out.
This means that in this lesson it is extremely important to keep your eyes up. You must always be looking at the next fence. Sometimes that fence is straight in front of you or sometimes it is a tight right or left turn. As Johnson states, "It's about learning how to straighten your horse while turning your horse." This of course really emphasizes the ever important outside rein.
Furthermore, pace and track Johnson says are the most important elements here, "Make your pace match up with the exercise." Meaning, the track with which you approach the octagon determines your success in the middle and jumping out of it. It's a lot to look at for a horse, and I can personally vouch for the fact that my horse's eyes popped out of his head the first time he saw it.
But the ultimate result, if you keep your eyes up and are moving your horse off your outside aids is an incredible amount of suppleness. Go ahead and set this exercise up at home and let us know how it goes in the comments section.