I think using pole work is a great way to change things up a bit from a normal routine. It is also a great way to get a horse listening and can really help to improve any discipline of riding. I like to use separate pole work exercises for flatwork and for jumping, this is because my horse Jet is ridden in different bits for jumping and dressage. It is also because some pole work exercises can be used to help improve jumping, and some help to engage the horse on the flat.
Ground pole exercises for flatwork: There are endless amounts of exercises to improve your horses way of going on the flat, different numbers of poles and different variations. Here are a few of my favourite ones:
1. Using 4 poles arranged in a 20m circle, put one pole at the marker A, one pole at K, another at F and one pole in the middle at X. Recreate this at the other end, with a pole at C, (one pole at H and another at M). It should look a bit like this...
Following the red lines on the diagram above, rider a clover pattern in between the poles in walk and trot to warm up. Once you have done this, ride two half 2cm circles going over all the poles and change the rein over the pole at X and keep this going (purple lines). You can start in walk and then bring in the trot. Try and keep a steady but forward rhythm between each pole, concentrating on going over the centre of each pole. Once you are confident with this you can even try the exercise in canter. This is a very useful exercise to help you with the rhythm of your horse as once you have a good rhythm, it is the baseline for all consistent flatwork. If you are struggling to find a good rhythm, put a 5-7m circle in (as shown in pink) after each pole, this can help your horse to listen more and not to run into the poles.
2. Another of my favourite exercises is using trotting pole grids on 10m and 20m circles. It is set up as shown below, I usually use 6-8 poles on a 20m circle and 4 on a 10m, but you can use as many as you feel comfortable with.
Using poles on a circle is very good to continue encouraging balance and is also good to have more control over their legs as they must adjust the steps to go over the poles while maintaining the bend on a circle. Start in walk with a 20m circle as this is easier to start with. Make sure you ride forward into the grid, but don’t rush as that is when the horse may tap a pole or skip one. Once you are confident on both reins, maintaining the rhythm on the circle while keeping the bend, you can try the 10m circle. It is more difficult as the circle is smaller, but will improve the horses bend, balance and rhythm.
Top Tip: use a block, bucket or marker in the middle of the circle, to help you maintain an accurate circle size throughout the exercise. Imagine there is string going from your knee to the centre of the circle, you must keep the string taught around the whole circle and you must not let it snap, by going to big, or go baggy, from making your circle too small.
Ground pole exercises for jumping: I use pole work in jumping to improve my approach to a fence as Jet sometimes rushes, so this helps improve with her balance and control. I also use them with my other horse Dude, to help him to find a stride as he is still quite green. A good exercise is to use placing poles that are slightly raised a few inches, aids in the energy and activity of the pace, therefore helps the horse to activate their hindquarters.
1. A simple ground pole exercise for jumping that I use, usually to warm up over, is a simple placing pole before a small upright fence.
This exercise is good to help when warming up as it helps the horse to place its legs and is also good to help them find a stride when jumping from trot. Go in at a steady, rhythmic trot and sit balanced and prepared, make sure you are relaxed and let your horse find their stride underneath you. You can move the poles closer and further away from the fence to make your horse adjust their stride, bigger or smaller. Only do this when you feel comfortable and confident before you put the fence higher.
Top Tip: Make sure you stay calm and relaxed coming into the fence and make sure to use you leg effectively to your horse.
I really enjoy pole work, if you find it boring, make sure to try some different and more interesting exercises to change things up a bit. I will be using lots of pole work when bringing my two horses Jet and Dude back into work, especially to change up their flatwork and in preparation before I start jumping.
I will be posting a video of Jet and Dude each week on my YouTube channel to show their progress back into work. I will be using loads of Likit Snaks and Treat Bars to keep them motivated and to reward them for their good work. They both have their Boredom Breaker and Boredom Buster up in their stables ready for them to come back to the yard on Saturday 11th March. I am very excited to get them back, and share our progress with you all.
I hope these pole exercises are useful and you enjoy riding them as much as I do! Don’t forget to tag #MaddiesLikitPolework in your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter posts of you riding any of these pole exercises, I would love to see them!
I hope everyone has had a lovely February!
Maddie, Jet and Dude x x x