Poles can be used to help your horse improve both on the flat and over jumps. They can boost core strength, balance, straightness, confidence, rideability and rhythm. Poles can also encourage your horse to think for himself and learn where he is putting his feet. Poles also do a lot of the work for the rider, which offers a prime opportunity for you to concentrate on your own position and balance. Polework sessions are strenuous so be aware of this and don’t over-do it.

  1. Trotting poles

Set these out between 1.30m and 1.35m apart from one another, depending on your horse’s stride length. This exercise will help teach your horse to lower his head and neck and use his back and hocks more. Introduce a young or green horse to a single pole to start with and then you can build up to a series of four or five which is plenty for an experienced horse.

  1. Canter poles

The best distance between canter poles (either on the ground or raised) is 3m for a horse. Start with between one and four canter poles on the ground, then you can raise them slightly — they don’t need to be big jumps, just enough to get your horse’s engine in gear — maybe 30cm or so and you don’t need groundlines on this exercise as the distance between each pole ensures your horse gets to the correct take-off point. This exercise is brilliant for building strength and is also a useful tool to try and steady a horse that rushes.

  1. Placing poles

Trot or canter placing poles can be used to help boost confidence over a fence for both horse and rider. Set the placing pole 2.4-2.75m from the base of the fence. For a more advanced horse you might find the addition of a placing pole on the landing side of the fence (at the same distance as the take-off side) beneficial. This will help a horse to focus, make a good round shape over a fence and will also work towards preventing a horse from rushing.

  1. ‘V’ poles

This exercise helps horses to stay straight over a fence and to make a nice shape over it. You can do this by arranging two poles as a wide inverted ‘V’ shape resting on the top rail.

  1. ‘Corridor’ poles

If you are stuggling with straightness and focus (either you or your horse!) this exercise is very useful. Set out two poles on the ground four or five strides apart from one another. Then in between these two poles set out two poles, roughly a horse’s width apart as guidelines on the ground that you need to ride between, like a corridor, between the two poles on the three/four stride distance. This should help you with accuracy without worrying about needing to take off over fences.

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