Last Week’s Recap: Lots and Lots of Poles

Adjustability is not something the green horse comes across naturally – this element of the horse’s rideability to do with pace is achieved over time with lots of repetitive jumping and pole work exercises. For this week’s exercise, we worked on adjusting the distance between poles by changing the track we take, whilst keeping our green horses on the same steady pace.


My lesson schedule usually consists of bi-weekly lessons every Tuesday and Thursday; my blog posts on my lessons will therefore be published in two parts every week. While not every lesson will be executed perfectly, I can still gather up the wise words of my coach to reflect on. I can look at the good, where to improve, and the next step to then decide what I need to be working on in my flatting before my next lesson.

Let’s recap what went down last week.

poles1

Poles Set-Up

So I’m going to focus on the pole work exercises from last week and overlook the jumping portion all together. Step one of the exercise focused on poles 1 and 2 in the diagram. For the first track, the goal is to fit in as many strides as possible. To make this possible, we need to ride the longest track from point a to point b. By coming off the track to the first pole sooner we are aiming to ride straight towards the back wall before continuing the turn to the second pole. (see Track 1 – added strides diagram)

track1

Track 1 – Added Strides

track2

Track 2 – Eliminated Strides

The next step is to now go over the pair of poles in the fewest number of strides possible. This will be done by staying on the track for longer, and looking for a very direct line to the second pole in the sharp turn off the track. (see Track 2 – eliminated strides diagram)

Now, after practicing each of those tracks over poles 1 and 2 a few times on both reins, poles 3 and 4 can then be incorporated into the exercise.

poles2

Poles Exercise – Added Strides

poles3

Poles Exercise – Eliminated Strides

The entire exercise can be done with the maximum number of strides, or the minimum number of strides. This can be done by simply changing the track exactly how it was ridden with poles 1 and 2, only now pole 3 is added. The track between poles 3 and 4 is a straight line, and therefore the striding cannot be adjusted by changing the track, only by changing the pace.

Whilst this week focused on track, pace was also added into the end of the exercise. Strides can be added into the straight line between poles 3 and 4 by lengthening the horse’s stride, as can strides be eliminated between the poles by shortening the horse’s stride. Ideally this should be done only by changing the length of the horse’s stride, and the horse should not drastically slow down to add the strides, nor shoot through the line at top speed to take away any strides. This is where the repetitive pole work comes into play, because the adjustability of your horse’s stride and of the rider’s eye only comes from consistency. The important thing I have to constantly remind myself to do is to accept imperfection, and to always celebrate little improvements – or on other days celebrate any consistency you are accomplishing that you may have been struggling with a week prior.


So, how did the bay do last week?

I will start by boasting about how willing he has been to try any task I have been throwing at him. He is absorbing everything up like a sponge and is a pleasure to work with! Me, my coach, and his owner are thrilled with his progress.

We tackled this exercise with expected results from a green horse like him – keeping him straight on the different tracks I wanted to take took some practice, we were bulging out, sometimes we cut in – but the next time around I would always change something about how I was riding to deal with the different issues that we were experiencing.

In comparison to the ideal 12 foot canter for a horse, the bay is comfortably on about an 11 and a half foot canter (sometimes 10 and a half!) so the goal is to get him to reach out and forward in our warm up. He naturally has a more higher head carriage because of the proportions of his neck, and has a habit of falling behind your leg, hallowing his back, and curling his nose in towards his chest to evade your contact on his mouth and the bit. It is then a balancing act (by that I mean I need to stay balanced on his back, and not allow myself to tip forward and let my hands balance on his mouth!) to keep him moving forward off my leg and giving him the freedom to begin to reach his nose down and forward into the contact of the bit, and begin to carry himself. So to get that 12 foot hunter canter from him I need to constantly be thinking forward, balance, release, forward, balance, release. Easy enough right? This will be the baseline of our winter training.

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Riley and I doing the trot poles at my barn’s Fun Day in November


What kind of things have you been working on in your lessons lately, and what do you usually like to work on in your winter flat work and schooling? (other than trying to stay warm, brr!)


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2 thoughts on “Last Week’s Recap: Lots and Lots of Poles

  1. Some of the things that I am working on this winter is getting my horse into a nice frame to use his hind end and get him off of his forehand. He is very forehanded and loves to run with it. So we are working on collecting the pace, and making him rock back on his bum and using himself that way. As well I am working on getting him to understand what flying lead changes are and getting him to recognize when he needs to swap them. And then just jumping and getting comfortable at new heights for the 2015 show season!

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    • Something that I got out of riding a horse who was very heavy on the forehand in a Dee Walker clinic last month was the use of transitions in the warm up. Dee had us start from the halt with a little feel on the reins, and push the horse up into the bridle a bit with our leg, then send them right forward into a working trot. Then a few steps later do a quiet downwards transition to halt, push them back into the bridle off our leg and set off again doing these transitions all around the ring. Halt to canter transitions too. After warming up like this and doing patterns around the ring the heavy fore-handed horse was soo much more responsive and carried himself well the rest of the ride. You should try it out Griffin!

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