Spring has sprung here at SmartPak, and I’ve never been so happy to get outside with my horse after a seemingly endless winter! Like many riders trying to get their horses back in shape for summer, I often incorporate pole work into my schooling. I recently found an exercise to add some variety to the classic trot poles. I happened upon it online, and it has become something I now regularly incorporate into my horse’s schooling.
The exercise is fairly simple to set up, and only requires jump blocks and poles. Just place the poles in the center of the ring at 90-degree angles, meeting in the middle. Then raise up the outside ends on the jump blocks. Tack up your horse and you’re ready to ride!
The first time you try this exercise, I suggest you walk your horse through the poles on a loose rein. This way they can figure out where the poles are and where they need to put their feet. Praise your horse when they do it correctly, so they begin to understand what you’re looking for and how to navigate the exercise.
Once they are walking over the poles casually, try it at the trot. When I tried this for the first time with my horse, he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. While he is great over trot poles, this setup was completely new to him. The first few times through, he jumped the center of the poles rather than trotting politely through. I tried trotting him up to it and walking a few strides out to help him understand. He really started to figure out the exercise when I sat the trot over the poles!
Once you and your horse are confident over the exercise at the trot, you can try it at the canter! My horse was much better from the canter since he could simply step over the poles right out of stride rather then trying to jump them like he did initially from the trot. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can continue down the long side and pop over either of the poles with one end propped up.
When you’re ready to advance past this, you can swap where the jump blocks are. Just take the blocks from under the outside edges of the poles and put one block in the middle to hold up all four ends of the poles in the center.
Have fun and have a great ride!