A Bunch of Jumpy Jumps – February Exercise 2

This week I am going to introduce you to a jumping exercise! It did not originally start out like the layout below, but with some great arena help my original grid progressed into quite an interesting workout not only for Dante but for me too. I keep my jumping to twice a week, alternating between grid work and related distance work for the meantime, I certainly killed two birds with one stone with this exercise!

Keep scrolling below to see the layout and “how to” on this weeks exercise.

The Set Up

For this exercise, see the set image below. It can be used as a flat work exercise or a canter pole exercise if you wish, for the brave I suggest you introduce some jumps to the mix! The distances are on the image below, please also take not that the poles without any triangles beside them, were not jumps! I like to keep a variety.

As always, the set up below is made for a horse, measurements may need to be adjusted for smaller horses or ponies. I would 100% recommend having someone on the ground to assist with adjustments for this exercise.

How To Ride This Exercise

  1. As always, I advise that a good warm up is done prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise I focused on having a forward moving canter in my warm up, keeping an even rhythm around the arena, as this is what I will be looking to translate into this exercise.
  2. This exercise can be ridden in sections first before progressing to the entire exercise. I began firstly by tackling the grid. This is set up with trot poles on approach followed with one stride of canter between each fence. The aim here was to land on the correct lead and to keep a forward even rhythm in the canter as Dante landed. To put it simply no breaking into trot or not taking off in excitement after the second fence.
  3. There were a few times when he was landing incorrectly, this is when the pole at figure number 2 came in handy, and helped assist as the course progressed on. I used this pole as a base for a lead change across the diagonal.
  4. This in turn then set me up perfectly to continue on to ride my related distance. Marked number 3 & 4 in the image below. Here we ran into some rushing problems between the fences. It was a four stride, and there were times we were getting 3… Sitting up tall after the first fence and wrapping my legs around him began to help as we done it a few times. I also found that the more I continued on with fences and poles and the less I brought him back to a walk, or a time out for me, the better he became at flowing easily through the exercises.
  5. Before I introduced the 5th section of the exercise in I wanted to make sure he was travelling more smoothly over part 3 & 4. It was quite a sharp turn into number 5 with yet another lead change as we landed.
  6. Once I was happy with all parts of the exercise, it was time to finally piece it all together. I get fidgety and flappy though corner and in between fences, so this was the aim here to basically sit on Dante and let him travel to the fences, no rider interference! It improved a lot as I rode it a few times, but this is an exercise that I will definitely be doing again, the variety kept Dante always thinking and the sudden turns and changes made me the rider really concentrate.
  7. To test yourself even more as you familiarise yourself with this exercise, after you come over fence number 5, transition down to trot and bring your horse over the grid again, see if your horse really listens and reacts to your direction!

The Benefits of The Exercise

  • Improves your horses canter and adjustability
  • Sharpens up your leg changing aids
  • Stops your horse from Rushing
  • Improves co-ordination

Remember to always finish an exercise with your horse on a good, positive note. Once you are happy with how your horse rode this exercise, finish up, I always tend to leave the exercise up for 2/3 days in the arena and visit it again to see how we have progressed from the first attempt!

I love a good technical jumping session, and now with shows coming back into action over the next few weeks this will certainly keep you and your horse on your toes ahead of entering the show ring!

Be sure to give it a go for yourself & do tag me in any videos you take of you doing this exercise!

Darielle

Focus On The Poles – February Exercise 1

It has been forever since I have had the time to sit down and put together some of the exercises I have been doing with Dante over the past few weeks. Dante is on a 7 day working schedule and for our flat/pole days and likewise on our jumping days I like to be prepared with what I am doing so that our time isn’t wasted in the arena.

For the month of February, I shall be sharing with you guys a weekly exercise, a mixture of flatwork & poles, and some jumping exercises also. We are on lockdown here in Ireland, so I hope it is something you can do or use as motivation to get you through your week with your horse.

Keep scrolling below to see the layout and “how to” on this weeks exercise. There is also a video over on our Instagram page on how Dante rode the exercise, be sure to check it out.

The Set Up

For this exercise, see the set image below. You can use it as a flat polework exercise, or if you are feeling brave or as you progress over a few days you can turn them all into jumps. I never walked the distances out between to outer canter poles, this was in order for me to be able to adjust Dante to the stride I wanted him to do.

The trot poles in the middle are 5 heel to toe footsteps between, with the middle pole raised. These can be adjusted to 4/4.5 steps for smaller horses or ponies.

How To Ride This Exercise

  1. As always, I advise that a good warm up is done prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise I focused a lot on transition work with Dante very helpful before we began, also making sure he was moving forward from my leg.
  2. This exercise can be ridden in sections first before progressing to one large exercise, depending on you and I guess how your horse is going. I began by getting an active forward trot over firstly the poles on the diagonal, and over the outer poles, getting Dante flexing around my leg in the trot, as we move up into canter this will become extremely helpful.
  3. Moving into our canter, I began by focusing firstly on cantering large circles over the poles at the top and bottom of the arena, focusing on having an even rhythm in the canter, making sure to also land on the correct lead as you move to your next pole.
  4. Once you are happy with this, you can begin to piece all of the 4 outer poles together. As you can see from my video on Instagram, I had a mixture of raised poles and small cavaletti’s as well as flat poles in this exercise. Variety for Dante works, he rushes more as the poles raise, so this was great to get him to approach flat poles the same as small jumps. My aim was to get a steady even forward canter the hole way around the poles.
  5. I haven’t mentioned the raised poles as of yet in this exercise, well let me add them in! They are used in this exercise to aid in changing your rein. I find this much easier to keep the exercise flowing so that you can keep the flow going instead of stopping and starting all the time. (As much as I would rather stop to catch my breath!)
  6. To finish, the entire exercise should ride as follows. Pick up your trot, changing the rein over your raised poles on the diagonal, pick up canter in the corner, ride a circle of canter over all your poles. Change the rein again over the diagonal, trotting over your poles, pick up canter and continue on with your canter over your poles on the other rein. Finish your exercise by transitioning down to trot and over your poles on the diagonal again, and viola, your done!

The Benefits of The Exercise

  • Improves your eye for a stride
  • Improves your horses canter and adjustability
  • Sharpens up your transitions
  • Improves flexability

Once you are happy with how your horse is riding this exercise, remember to always leave your horse on a good note, now keep in mind that your horse needs to do what you ask it to do so don’t worry if it takes a few turns to get this exercise right. I normally leave it up for 2/3 days to get it perfected.

I found this exercise super productive & really made me focus during my riding session. Plans really do work once you put them in place, It’s great to have a schedule to focus on and to keep you motivated, especially in this day and age!

Be sure to give it a go for yourself & do tag me in any videos you take of you doing this exercise! Next week I have a lovely jumping exercise that is sure to keep you thinking on your toes!

Darielle

Youngster Exercise Series – The Circle Challenge

Here’s another exercise that is a bit more challenging but excellent for a young horse to take on. I did this one with Cosmo before we went into complete lockdown in March. It was tough but very rewarding when we got it right.


WHAT IS THIS EXERCISE GOOD FOR?

  • Building topline
  • Encouraging self-carriage
  • Making your horse more sure-footed
  • Improving balance

HOW TO SET IT UP

For this exercise you’re going to want a large amount of space. I set mine up in the middle of the arena but it could be set-up at either end of the arena too.

For the Trot Poles:

  • Two sets of 3 x raised trot poles – 5 footsteps between each pole
  • Each set should be placed at opposite sides of a 10m circle

For the Canter Poles:

  • 4 x poles
  • Placed on a 20m circle at 3 – 6 – 9 – 12 as if on a clock face

You should place your canter poles around the outside of your trot poles.

HOW TO RIDE IT

Riding the Trot Poles:

To ride the trot poles you want to make sure you have a nice forward trot with a good even contact on the reins to help balance your horse.

  • Start by riding a circle around the outside of the trot poles, encouraging your horse to bend its body around your leg
  • Once you establish a nice even rhythm, ride your horse into the first set of trot poles, making sure to keep the bend over the poles. You may find that your horse will struggle the first few times over the poles but if you can maintain consistency in your rhythm and contact, they’ll get there themselves.
  • After doing the first set of poles on each rein a few times, its time to complete the circle and include your second set of poles. You may find the circle a bit tight initially but again, once you maintain a consistent rhythm, your horse should flow through both sets of poles.
  • This is quite a tough enough exercise for a young horse who is still developing their topline so be sure to give your horse plenty of breaks when doing this exercise.

For the Canter Poles:

The canter element of this exercise is much more simple but equally as challenging especially if you have a horse who struggles to hold themselves together in the canter.

  • Similar to the trot poles, start by riding a larger circle around the outside of the canter poles to help establish a rhythm. You want to settle your horse into a nice forward canter with a slight bend through their body.
  • Once you’re ready, start over your first pole focusing on maintaining your rhythm and keeping your horse up in your hands to encourage them off the forehand as you ride the full circle of poles.
  • Do this on both reins while making sure to give your horse plenty of breaks.

Check out a quick video of Cosmo giving this Circle Challenge a go!


I definitely found the trot pole element of this layout way more difficult than the canter poles but I felt both myself and Cosmo settled into it in the end and we got some really lovely results. Our biggest problem with canter work is that Cosmo tends to lean on the forehand quite a bit so I sometimes have a hard time keeping him up and light in my hands. I definitely felt an improvement by the time we finished up with this exercise though.

Thanks for reading,

ORLA

A Winter Exercise Staple, Trot N Rock

Finally getting back into the swing of normal again, making a riding schedule and trying to stick to it has now become quite the challenge, I forgot how much I hated the winter. Trying to get on top of our exercises has also been something I have really missed.

This exercise, Trot N Rock was one I done quite a bit through summer months, or during the first lockdown shall I say, it was a great transition exercise as well as one that kept Dante’s mind very busy and occupied.

I always find it hard to plan and think of things to be doing exercise wise in the arena, without a plan in my head of what I need to be doing each day, I often find myself drifting in and out of plans. Creating these short effective exercises certainly helps, it also keeps my riding quick but effective, and well what more could you want now that the winter months are creeping in amongst us.

Keep scrolling for my Trot N Rock exercise, it is definitely one to start with so many benefits not too mention how quick and easy it is to set up.


The Setup

Well, for this exercise all you need for your set up is 3 trot poles, of course an arena or a quiet field would also come in handy. Quite simple. The distance between your poles can depend, for a pony 4 heel to toe footsteps, for a horse I tend to do 4 and a half heel to toe footsteps. Check out the vid below!

Your arena doesn’t need to be fully clear, but I would recommend clearing at least the half of the arena you are using. See below as to where your set up should be done and what it should look like before you start.

The Benefits

  • Helps improve Balance, Suppleness, Rhythm
  • Helps develop hind end muscles and horses core
  • Helps to develop horses eye, and improves his co-ordination
  • Helps keep your horses brain busy, less anticipation of the work he thinks he’s doing
  • Teaches your horse collection

How To Ride This Exercise

Step 1 – Do I need to tell you what step one is, or have you been living under a rock? The warm up is as critical as the exercise itself! No warm up, especially in the winter time will leave you with an accident prone and stiff horse… so be sure to get your 15 minute walk trot and canter in before you “jump” into any of our exercises.

Step 2 – This exercise is so much easier to explain, I feel like I have already made a balls of the images! Start first by picking up your trot, you are looking for a nice rhythm not too fast, once you find it start by going over your trot poles. Do this a few times and be sure to change your rein often. Don’t leave it too easy so that your horse can anticipate the left and right turns. Focus on your turns before and after your poles also, aim for the centre and focus on staying straight through out the 3 poles

Step 3 – Once you are riding smoothly over the poles in trot, adding an element of canter to this exercise is what we shall be doing next, and no you don’t need to adjust them to canter poles. Your poles are placed down the centre of the centre or half way up even, when you are comfortable to progress to your canter, the aim is to canter 3 loops around each trot pole that you have placed down as per the image below. I would recommend practicing this a few times before we piece everything together. Dante looked at the poles strangely when he had to go through them opposed to going over them, you will be surprised on the strange things out horses look at!

Step 4 – You are looking for an active forward canter, your can begin with large circles, starting near the centre of the arena, progressing to the small circle, or you can go the opposite. Whatever suits your horse. Balance and rhythm is something you need to keep focus on, Sitting up straight holding a contact and riding from the leg will all benefit you in keeping the above smooth. Once you have mastered this, it is time to piece all of our above steps together.

Step 5 – Lets piece everything together, starting in trot and finishing in trot. BAM, I surprised you with a twist there! Pick up your forward active trot like in step 2 above, begin by coming over your trot poles in the center of the arena a loop on each rein. As you come over your poles the second time track left, you are now picking up canter in your next nearest corner. Now you are piecing in Step 3 and adding in your canter loops. Continuing until you have your 3 loops around your poles, using the same corner you picked up canter as a marker to transition back down to trot. Keep your forward trot when transitioning down, as you need to finish off by coming over your trot poles one last time and tracking right. In your next corner transition down to walk or straight to halt. Whichever your prefer and Viola, The Trot N Rock exercise is complete!


And there we have it folks, I have always wanted to say that in a room full of people… don’t even ask why! This exercise is so simple yet it has so many benefits that I am sure we can all gain from. You might only do it once and finish there, but you hit all the nails on the head and even manage to get two rein changes in at that too. It is also an exercise that gives you a sense of accomplishment when you finish your ride. I don’t know about you but motivating myself to ride in the winter can be a tough one. The cold is not my friend especially when you have to walk up and down the yard in the dark not to mention having to keep turning on and off lights..

Anyways I want you guys to give this exercise a go, it’s one I will be bringing back into my winter routine that’s for sure. We also love seeing you guys doing our exercises, be sure to tag us in any of your videos if you add it to your winter riding schedules!

Be on the look out for more pole workouts coming your way, it’s going to be a winter pole fiasco, I can just feel it in my bones! Pole work, gives you goal work…

Speak Soon,

Darielle

Youngster Exercise Series – Straighten Out

As you may be realising, Cosmo has a bit of a straightness issue so I came up with this series of poles to help work on this problem. It’s relatively simple but enough for a young brain to get to grips with.


WHAT IS THIS EXERCISE GOOD FOR?

  • Straightness
  • Rhythm
  • Seeing a stride

HOW TO SET IT UP?

For this exercise you’ll need pretty much your full arena and the following:

For the Trot Poles:

  • Two sets of 3 x trot poles – 4 and a half footsteps between each pole
  • A pair of straightening poles set up either side of both sets of trot poles

For the Canter Poles:

  • One set of canter poles – 6 strides, 4 large steps per stride
  • A pair of straightening poles at the start and end of the line
  • Two wings/blocks at the half way point down your line

Your trot poles should be set up on the long-sides, while your canter poles should be set up down the centreline.

HOW TO RIDE IT

The straightening poles within these layouts will ensure your horse goes over the poles as straight as possible however there are other things you can do to help get your horse there:

  • If your horse tends to drift to one particular side more than the other, then consider cutting your corner on your approach or turning a little later. This will help ensure you’re straight by the time you hit your poles.
  • Keep your hands wide to provide a type of tunnel contact between your hands and the horse’s mouth.
  • Focus on keeping even pressure on your horse’s sides with your legs.

Check out some GoPro footage of me and Cosmo giving the canter poles a go…


Cosmo’s weakest gait is canter so we can sometimes struggle to even get through a set of canter poles without breaking to trot but he did quite well with this one all things considered. I’ve definitely seen a big improvement in Cosmo’s straightness since starting these exercises so do give them a go if you’re having the same problems as me.

Thanks for reading,

ORLA

Youngster Exercise Series ~ Circle of Support

Well, it has been some time since I’ve written a post and for that I apologise but I’m getting back into the swing of things and to kick me back into gear, I’ve got a brand new exercise series specifically aimed at young horses.

To start the series, I’ve got a nice simple pole exercise that incorporates some concepts that are vital to your horse’s development.


WHAT IS THIS EXERCISE GOOD FOR?

  • Improving balance
  • Encouraging roundness and self-carriage
  • Strengthening the hind end
  • Improving rhythm

HOW TO SET IT UP

Ideally you want to have someone on the ground to help adjust poles but if that’s not possible then you can set this exercise up in two different corners of the arena.

Trot Pole Setup:

  • Set out 3 trot poles in a fan with 4 small footsteps between the middle of each pole
  • Place one pole vertically on the outside of the fan as a guide pole
  • Place another guide pole vertically on the inside of the fan

Canter Pole Setup:

  • Lay a single pole out on a bend
  • Place a guide pole vertically on either side of the canter pole, again one on the outside and one on the inside

HOW TO RIDE IT

Hold the outside rein while opening the inside hand to support through the circle

TROT POLES

  • First, make sure you have an active and engaged trot with your horse moving forward and off the leg.
  • Bring them onto a circle, but going around the exercise to start. This is to get you and your horse in the circle ‘mind-frame’ and allows you the time to ask for an inside bend.
  • Once happy with how your horse is moving, bring them into your set of trot poles, starting over the centre of the poles first.
  • The placing of the guide poles, will help keep your horse on track before and after the trot poles.
  • Do this a few times before you start asking your horse to move out on the circle, aiming for the outside of the trot poles.
  • Next work your way back in until you’re riding over the inside of the trot poles.
  • Make sure to repeat the above on the other rein to give both reins a good workout

CANTER POLES

  • Depending on your horse’s weaknesses, you might find they struggle a bit more with this exercise in canter. You also might find that they have a rein that’s much weaker than the other so you’ll find this very beneficial for supporting them on that weaker side.
  • Similar to the trot poles, do a circle of canter around the exercise first so you can establish your rhythm on a circle.
  • Once ready, bring your horse over the canter pole making sure to support them with your outside rein and if needs be, opening your inside rein a bit wider to encourage them around the circle.
  • Do this a few times on each rein until you feel your horse is supporting themselves around the circle
  • Step it up by turning the canter pole into a raised cavaletti, ensuring your horse uses themselves effectively over the pole

Tips for this Exercise:

  • Keep a steady, even pace through the exercise, using half halts on the outside rein to manage your horse’s speed
  • If your horse is prone to drifting out through the shoulder, make sure to lift and keep a steady contact on the outside rein while supporting their body through the turns with a strong outside leg behind the girth
  • Use your guide poles! They’re there to help and support so use them to help guide your horse through the exercise.

Check out how I got on with Cosmo when we tackled this exercise…


As these exercises are aimed at young horses, they tend to be quite simple but also something that should challenge your youngster. Myself and Cosmo struggled with this canter part of the exercise way more than I thought we should but we got there in the end eventually.

Give it a go with your youngster and let me know how you get on!

Thanks for reading,

ORLA