Using poles can be beneficial for improving both dressage and jumping in young and more experienced horses.

Pole work should help to promote suppleness, balance and strength on the flat, while there are a huge number of potential benefits using such exercises for jumping.

Pole work will help to teach your horse not to rush at a fence, can improve balance and calmness and will improve technique and understanding.

Poles are great for the rider too; it encourages them to focus on where they are going, to be clear with their intentions, teaches accuracy, as well as allowing variety, structure and interest to everyday schooling. Schooling with poles has so many benefits, but above all it brings focus and enjoyment to a schooling session for both horse and rider.

You must remember, particularly when riding a young horse, that your mount is likely to tire very quickly, so don’t over-do it.

Exercise one

Set up a 20m circle with four poles at each of the quarter marks of the circle.  If the circle was a clock the poles would be at 12,3,6 and 9 o’clock. Choose one pole to start over initially, bypassing the others as you complete each circuit of the circle in canter.

Your horse needs to maintain his balance throughout the circle and over the poles. Don’t worry too much about your striding; instead focus on the rhythm and tempo, striving to keep it the same. Also pay attention to your position — sit correctly and don’t tip or lean your body.

As he becomes better at just the one pole, introduce a second pole – the one directly opposite the first one (the 6 for the 12 or the 9 for the 3 on a clock).  Pay attention to reaching the middle of all the poles when you reach them on every circuit you ride.  As you both become better, you can introduce the third pole and working up including all four poles in your circle.  However, this may take some time to build up to — make sure you get the one pole correct before you move on. 

Exercise two

Build canter poles (each should be about 9ft apart). Begin with just two poles. Once you are both happy over two poles, begin adding additional poles in a straight line and you can also begin to raise the poles, again alternating the sides between each following pole to create a funnel of sorts through the poles for your horse to canter through.

Exercise three

Arrange three sets of three canter poles in the arena (split the area you are riding in into thirds and put one set of three poles in each third on the outside track on a slight circle). Make one set at a standard working canter stride in between each pole (approximately 9ft); one set at a short canter stride, and the last set at a lengthened stride.

Firstly trot over the sets of poles to let your horse familiarise himself with what you are about to do. Then move up into canter. The will help to develop transitions within a pace in between working canter, then collected canter, and then medium canter, and back to working again. 

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