How to introduce your horse to pole work
by Ellen Whittaker
Friday 20 November 2009
Introducing The Horse To Pole Work
It is often wise when introducing your horse to jumping, to start with pole work. The most important thing to remember in pole work is the same as flatwork- the horse must be calm, rhythmical and balanced.
Going over poles will help improve your horse’s suppleness. He has to lift his legs higher to clear the poles, so exercising his knee, hocks, fetlocks, stifles, shoulders and back.
Start with some poles on the ground, placed randomly about the arena, that can be approached from any direction. This is a good warm up for you as well as your horse if you lead him around with you while you set the course. The walk will also warm him up.
Start by asking your horse to trot over a single pole. There are several ways your horse will tackle it- he will either step over it without a second thought, leap over it, or refuse it. If you find yourself with the latter you must be firm. Do not allow him to turn away, push him to step over the pole and give him a pat once he has done so.
In pole work, the issue to concentrate on is the stride. Take note of whether your horse puts in a small step before the pole, or if he takes it in a stride. If the small step is present this indicates that the horse is not in front of your leg. If he takes a long step, or increases his pace at the pole, you may need to increase the rein contact.
Once you have approached the pole from different directions and are happy with your horse, you can progress into rising trot with the same exercise. Remember that you must constantly think of your rhythm and balance, which will in turn help your horse remain calm and confident.
When you start trotting, try to establish a rhythm around the arena and this will help you meet the poles in stride. Finally you can break into a canter, remembering not to let your horse go onto his forehand, maintaining the rhythm. You should learn to feel the horse’s canter and your horse should be comfortable with cantering to the pole and going over it without any fuss.
Next you can progress into a line of trotting poles. This can be two or more poles on the ground or strides apart in a straight line. You may want to adjust the pole according to your horse’s length of stride. He should not have to reach for the poles or shorten his stride.
Start off with two or three poles and as your horse gets more comfortable with what you are asking him to do, you can introduce more poles, building up to a maximum of six.
Remember when in trot not to sit as sitting trot may cause the back to stiffen.
Trotting poles help to teach a horse to look what he is doing, and raised poles will make him work at what he is doing.
Raised poles can be a very tiring exercise for your horse, so don’t do this exercise for too long.
It is also a good idea to lunge your horse over raised poles. Without your weight on his back, he has no restrictions and will have to deal with the poles on his own.
If you want to make the exercise more challenging all you need to do is change the pace within the gait. Alternatively make one circuit of your course of poles in sitting trot then immediately progress into canter for one circuit then return to trot to see if your horse is still in rhythm and between your leg and hand.
If you practice these exercises you will find that you have developed a greater ‘feel’ for your horse, refined your aids, and developed a good eye for distance.
Remember that most of your time on a course of jumps is spent riding straight lines and corners. If you are successful at riding the ‘pole course’ you will find when the time comes to start jumping you are a much more refined rider and that your horse is more responsive.
Ellen’s Gear Guide
Ellen always relies on Caldene to provide her with a show jacket that looks smart and performs to the same immaculate standards as Ellen.
Ellen likes to wear the Farnham Show Jacket which comes in black with the collar edged in ribbon and diamante. Available from sizes 28” to 42”, and priced from £94.50
For further information contact Caldene on 01274 711101or visit www.caldene.co.uk
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