What’s in Your Ring? Presented by Attwood: Lara Knight’s ‘Five of Hearts’

What’s in Your Ring? is an EN series sponsored by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces in which riders share their favorite jumping exercises. It’s easy to get stuck in a training rut, and we hope this will inspire you with fresh ideas that you can take home and incorporate into your own programs.

This week’s edition comes courtesy of Lara Knight, who teaches and trains out at her Canterway Farm in Whites Creek near Nashville, TN. Lara is a lovely Advanced-level rider who stole our hearts with her adopted OTTB Shooby Do — the pair are gearing up for a comeback this year so watch out! Learn more about Lara by visiting the Lara Knight Eventing/Canterway Farm Facebook page. 

Lara Knight and Shooby Do. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Lara Knight and Shooby Do. Photo by Samantha Clark.

I ran into Leslie Wylie at River Glen in November — we got to chatting and she asked me to do a submission for “What’s in My Ring?” Anyone who follows me knows I took off the summer and fall of 2016 from competing to focus on my other business and now that I’m “back” and getting into the swing of things it’s fun to revisit some of my favorite exercises.

Shooby and I both are having fun recreating ourselves. I’m a weak flopping mess and he’s like starting a fresh youngster all over only now he’s got very fancy buttons installed! Since Nashville is frozen and my arena is iced over and I can’t ride today I thought I’d fulfill what I’d said I’d do!

We all have our favorite “go to” exercises — I myself tear out and laminate the Grid Pro Quo out of the USEA’s Eventing magazine each month, laminate it, and have a binder that I keep them all in for future reference. While this isn’t a grid I love the exercise as it’s simple to set up and works for every level out there.

There’s enough challenge just in riding the pattern (or remembering it!) and because there are so many variations the horses can’t memorize the course. It makes young riders and horses learn to see lines and teaches young horses to be honest as let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t get straight to a fence and you need Mr. Wizard to just jump (!) from wherever you stick his nose. I love it as with the diagonals and jumping on the angle you have a hard time seeing a distance, yet because of the angle, the horse can shift a little left or right to find a better distance and will teach himself over time.

To be fair I can’t take credit for this exercise as we are all products of our education and exercises have been passed down thru the ages. I saw this once at Bill Hoos’ barn years ago and he told me he’d just gotten it from Joe Fargis (the man the myth the legend — no wonder I love it!) at a clinic. It can even be fitted into a relatively small indoor and will quickly teach you to ride out and wait till you “see” your line. Also you’ll find horses start offering lead changes if you keep riding positively.

This exercise I call the “Five of Hearts” … and that’s my name for it — I like hearts and it’s built just like it.

As with anything it’s best to start low and keep the distances a little short so everyone has a positive round while learning. Then as the levels increase you can raise the heights and open the distances to true and ask riders to put specific strides in the outside straight lines. I have even varied the diagonal distances at times making one a 2-stride to a 3-stride which will also change up the striding on the outside line.

The main part of this exercise is to build confidence and ego and try in the horse. I train that everything is a “game” and you are trying to get the horse to win so keep it low, easy, and positive until Mr. Wizard is very confident — you don’t want to overface him so that when the inadvertent mistake happens, that he stops trying. It’s not about the heights, it’s learning to answer the questions correctly.

Have fun!



Thank you so much for sharing, Lara! Do you have an exercise to share or is there an eventer you would like to nominate for the series? Email [email protected].