Infinity patterns are one of my favorite ways to train my horses and teach my students. They keep busy minds occupied, and can teach a myriad of skills to both horse and rider.
What The Heck is an Infinity Patterns??
An infinity pattern is anything from a basic figure 8, to complicated patterns with multiple maneuvers, what makes it an infinity pattern, is the fact that there is maintained impulsion (forward motion) for sustained periods of time and it loops back on itself. (there is no end)
Why Use Them?
We all (horses included) learn from repetition, so repeating the same pattern over and over again can help us learn it better. However horses like to anticipate what comes next, and if a pattern has a clear end the horse is going to try and get to that end point fast, generally that presents by going quickly through the motions of whatever maneuver they think is coming next.
An infinity pattern disrupts this behaviour because they never know when it will end. You may see horses anticipating which direction they will turn depending on the pattern itself, but generally the infinite repetitions of a pattern like this sets the horse into a really focused mindset.
For students it does much the same thing, it keeps them focused and on task, and stops them from obsessing too much about the task at hand.
In addition to the mindset aspect, infinity patterns are also amazing for building strength, confidence and stamina. Loping around in a circle can do these things also, but it’s boring and gives both horse and rider lots of time to think, and overthink!
- Mentally calming and focusing
- Helps break the habit of anticipation
- Develops strength and stamina
- Improves cadence
- Sets clear goals
- Provides a benchmark
Using Infinity Patterns for Setting Goals and as a Benchmark
For Goal Setting: If you try a certain pattern and you are unable to do it for whatever reason, it gives you a clear short term goal to aid in attaining a larger long term goal. For example a simple 4 leaf clover pattern can be used by beginners to learn how to maintain impulsion while turning, or it can be used by a more advanced rider to improve their horses steering.
For Benchmarking: Although setting goals is great, we need to know where we are now and where we started in addition to where we want to be. That’s where a benchmark comes in. Say your goal is to one day ride bridle-less, or even just ride one-handed on a loose rein. That’s great but how do you get there? You know you need very good leg and seat cues, so your bench mark could be how many repetitions of a certain pattern can you do without touching the reins? Or even how many times in each repetition of the pattern do you need to use the reins?
How to Find and Learn Infinity Patterns
Most coaches will have at least a few go to infinity patterns for you to try, I have accumulated around 10 favorites over the years that I like to use in my own training as well as when I teach. Here is one of my favorites, there are two variations of this Four-Leaf Clover pattern, both can be great for all levels of both horse and rider. Enjoy!
Version 1: Place 4 cones in a large square (size dependant on the horse and intended gait) with 1 cone in the very centre. The pattern is performed by continuously riding from a corner cone, towards the centre cone, then looping around to the cone immediately beside the rider in the direction of travel. If the pattern is performed to the left, ride towards the centre cone, loop around it towards the left and turn around the cone immediately to the left.
Version 2: Place a cone in each corner of the arena, on the inside of the rail, and create a box with 4 poles at X. At the half way point along each wall turn towards the centre of the arena (aligning with the box in the middle, cross the box and continue to the wall and turn. The pattern is performed in one direction at a time, once mastered try switching direction each time.