This exercise helps a horse find its rhythm and is effective for horses working on the flat and those that are jumping. The exercise can aid balance and open up the horse’s shoulder, improving his stride length and quality.
Start with six poles on the ground and place them three yards apart, in a straight line.
- Walk down the line of poles until your horse is confident. Repeat this exercise in trot and canter, starting from both directions.
- When your horse is trotting and cantering confidently in a good rhythm, build the middle four poles up until they are raised. Keep the two end poles on the ground.
- Repeat step one with the raised poles. You should feel your horse start to open up trough his shoulder.
- You can add a cross pole at either end, but make sure the final pole before the fence is a raised one.
It is really important to keep your horse straight through the whole exercise. A good way to make sure of this is to always aim for the middle of each pole. To straighten your horse, use your legs and really try to avoid using your hands, unless you absolutely have to.
What can go wrong?
This exercise is fairly straightforward — just make sure you ride into a soft contact and don’t get behind the movement… let the poles do the work.
If the horse makes a mistake don’t panic, keep riding quietly through the poles and let him work it out. A young horse or inexperienced horse may want to jump each pole. If he does, again don’t panic. If necessary you can back track by dropping the poles to the floor and starting again.
Lastly, if your horse knocks a pole you must check that all the poles are still three yards apart. If not your horse’s stride pattern and rhythm will be disrupted, defeating the object of the exercise.
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