Did you know that you can us ground poles for balance and co-ordination with your horse?
You can use poles in both your riding or on the line for groundwork.
Start by setting up your poles as a single or double pole at first.
You want your horse to be set up to succeed. They need to learn how to lift their back, pay attention to where they are placing their feet and adjust their stride or push from behind to correctly ride the poles.
I like to use poles as the first step in helping a horse to understand their own balance and begin to use more drive from behind.
They have to learn how to negotiate and do this on their own so it helps them to learn without a nagging or demanding rider at first.
It is the softest and easiest way to help a horse lift their back and engage the hind end without making it a request from the rider.
Think of this as a progression of building blocks when you are teaching your horse. When we are “schooling” or teaching our horse it is like a teacher developing a curriculum for an elementary classroom. You must teach the foundation steps and then build on them in a systematic approach that makes it easy for them to learn with the least amount of confusion or frustration as possible.
Setting your poles. This is the generic spacing and sometimes you must adjust by 6” increments either direction based on your horses stride. With that in mind though I do keep my spacing set at this so a long stride can learn to shorten and vice versa. Keep in my mind if mentally this is to much for your horse at the beginning and help adjust to their stride length to make it successful for them. But this is the average that works for most horses.
Walk poles are set at 2’
Jog/Trot poles at 3’ up to 4’ based on jog or forward trot
Lope/Canter poles are set at 6’
Beginner Exercise: Walk Poles
Set up 2 walk poles to begin with in a straight line with your horse. Once your horse is comfortable and balanced going over 2 poles then add 1 -2 more poles at a time all the way up to 6 poles.
Once they have mastered the straight line of walk poles keeping their rhythm and balance as well as stride length consistent you can then move to set up poles in a fan shape. When you set up your fan measurement make sure they measure 2′ in dead center of the fan from pole to pole.
You also can use low risers to add an elevation to your walk over poles. I like to only use up to 4 poles in a row when you are doing raised or elevated poles. You can alternate which side you elevate or elevate the entire pole. Your goal is not to make this exercise super difficult for your horse, but show them how to successfully balance and be aware of their foot placement.
Intermediate Exercise: Jog/Trot Poles
Set up 2 jog/trot poles to begin with in a straight line with your horse. I set mine at 4′ spaced between poles and always aim my horse for dead center of the poles. You will notice if your horse wants to drift to one side or the other.
Once your horse is comfortable and balanced going over 2 poles then add 1 -2 more poles at a time all the way up to 6 poles.
Once they have mastered the straight line of jog/trot poles keeping their rhythm and balance as well as stride length consistent you can then move to set up poles in a fan shape. Measure the poles dead center of the fan from pole to pole. I set these at 4′ apart. You know the dead center is 4′ so normal jog/trot over spacing. If you go to the inside, so closer to fan point the spacing is less so you need a more collected gait. If you go to the outside or widest part of the fan the spacing is going to be farther apart so you know you will need an extended gait. The fan gives you ability to extend, regular working gait and collect all without having to reset the poles.
You also can use low risers to add an elevation to your jog/trot over poles. I like to only use up to 4 poles in a row when you are doing raised or elevated poles. You can alternate which side you elevate or elevate the entire pole. Your goal is not to make this exercise super difficult for your horse, but show them how to successfully balance and be aware of their foot placement.
Advanced Exercise: Lope/Canter Poles
Make sure you have mastered the Intermediate Exercises of Jog/Trotting your poles before working up to the advanced exercise.
Start with 1 or 2 poles set for the Lope/Canter in a straight line. Remember to guide to the center of the poles and ride your lope/canter through the straight line of poles.
I like to add in a box that is set 6′ so you have different options of 2 poles in a row and turns available as well to start to add in. I start with the three sided box to make a lane for when I first start a horse at a lope/canter over poles. Then you can add the 4th pole to close the box and you have multiple options.
Once your horse has mastered the poles in a straight line you elevate the poles differently or add in a fan at the lope/canter as well.
Have fun with this Challenge Exercise and remember to make it a set up for success for your horse so you are not trying to make it difficult for them.
If you have not already signed up for the Boss Mare Summer Equestrian Challenge then click here and join us today!
Don’t let another season pass you by! It is time to take action now to challenge yourself and reach your goals with your horse!
See you inside the Challenge!