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!


January Ultimate Exercise – Halt, Loop & Go!

Welcome to week 3! I can’t get over the amazing response we have had to these exercises, maybe it is something you guys want to read more off in the future…? Who knows what we have in store!

This week we are focusing more in on our transition work, incorporating a serpentine in canter. This will bring us forward from last weeks exercise still working on our flying changes from our “Figure of Death”, lets see how much your horse has learned!

Keep reading to find out how we got on, do be warned though, prepare yourself for sore legs the next day!!

What You Will Need?

For this weeks exercise, you will yet again need your arena, or a field to layout this exercise.

6 poles are needed, position them in the arena as per the diagram below across the diagonal. Between each pole, walk out the distance of 10 footsteps for a horse and 9 footsteps for a pony.

Be sure to clear your arena of any extra wings/poles as you will need the space.

What This Exercise Is Good For?

  • Perfecting your Flying changes in sequence
  • Developing the riders coordination & seat
  • Approaching poles correctly
  • Suppling your horse around your leg
  • Helping your horses Balance & Rhythm

How To Ride This Exercise?

  • As always, begin this exercise by warming your horse up accordingly.
    Focusing again on firstly your walk on each rein getting them loose & listening, followed by trot work incorporating some 20 metre circles adding in some figures of 8’s , and finally begin with your canter.
  • Once you are satisfied with your horses warm up, that they are listening to your leg aids accordingly, we can start to introduce the first section of this exercise. It is all about transition work, with the poles being there as a guideline to assist you & your horse with straightness. See Diagram below.
  • You can see in the image that between each pole in the diagram there is an “X” marked in the middle. This is your take off point & also your stopping point. Anytime you react an X, you must transition up or down from the original gait you came in. Try this a couple of times in each direction, mixing up your transitions so your horse doesn’t anticipate the exercise. (trot to halt, halt to trot, walk to canter, canter to halt etc.)
  • The most important thing to remember, don’t let your horse run through a transition. Going forward you need to push them forwards, if you need to assist your leg with a flick of a schooling whip do. On downward transitions you will need to sit and hold. Using your seat & leg will be the most beneficial way to accomplish this, or even your voice with a calming “Woahhh”.
Starting off your exercise with a larger, more exaggerated loop of the arena across the diagonal.
  • Once you feel like you have hit the nail on the head with the above, then you can begin to progress to the second part of the exercise, the serpentine. This is where your canter work comes into play.
  • Begin by picking up your canter, and approaching the outer poles in a large 20metre circle. Do this off both reins until you are happy with how your horse is approaching the ground poles. You want them staying in the same rhythm & approaching the poles calmly. See Diagram Below.
  • See the Diagram below for the final stage of the exercise. When riding the serpentine in Canter, try land for two strides after each pole before your approach to the next, use your seat & wrap your horse around your inside leg, using your outside leg to keep him moving forward. You are trying to focus here on using your legs more instead of using your hands when turning your horse. This takes some time getting used to. Trust me, I had to hold a branch to stop me from pulling at Dante’s mouth at times!
  • Once you complete your serpentine, of course the exercise isn’t quite finished yet! You must loop back in what we practiced at the beginning! Marked with a red “X” on the image below, you must transition down to a halt from your canter, this was our rule to finishing out the exercise!
  • To finish off, again if your horse completes this good on the first attempt with the correct leads over the poles, end your session. Don’t over work your horse. You will only end up spending more time trying to fix it or correct it leaving you aggravated & well pissed off, we have all been there!

And there you have it! Our Halt, Loop & GO exercise. I thought it would be best not to use the word death in the title, a lot of you were quite concerned!

Doing this on both horses, again they both gave me different reactions one was good, one was challenging! To my surprise Dante seemed to of brought froward what he learned from our “Figure of Death” and really used his little brain in remembering his flying changes. Coco on the other hand, well she was being coco, attacking the poles and basically loving life with a few attempts to get me off!! Check out our Instagram to see some videos of the horses doing this exercise!

The Branch!! A lot of you have asked why I was holding a branch whilst riding part of this exercise. Well it is quite simple, it was an aid to assist myself with keeping my hands steady & to stop my uneven contact. Give it a go yourself, try riding with a short whip or in my case a branch. Hold your reins like normal, and place the whip across your horses whither’s holding it under your thumbs, It will basically help position your hands in the perfect place & help you forget about thinking what you are doing with them!

How will you get on with this weeks exercise? Let us know in the comments below, & of course tag us in your video’s if you give this video a go!

Thanks For Reading,


September Monthly Exercise – Pole To Pole

I can’t quite get my head around it being the end of September already, doing our August weekly exercises just seemed to make the month fly by even quicker!

This month, we decided to focus more on some flat work exercises, I came across this exercises over on our Pinterest account, and it is safe to say I loved it.  Have a read below, and be sure to give it a go!

It is definitely one that will be a staple in my winter workouts!

The Set Up: 

You will need 7 ground poles & an arena (obviously!!) If you dont have an arena you can set this exercise up your field.

Measuring out your trot poles, I worked from 4 & a half footsteps between each pole, (follow the arrows in the picture for your layout) when I measured all the trot poles out,  it pretty much took into account for my canter pole layout, so no additional adjustments were needed!

See below image for your set up.

Pole To Pole set up-page-001

What this exercise helps your horse with

  • Straightness
  • Control
  • Approach
  • Balance

How To Ride The Exercise:

This is quite the versatile exercise. It can be used for walk, trot, canter, transition work, you name it you can do it. The layout gives you so much variety & options to work with. Below I have outlined my go to routines, one in trot & one in canter.

Trot – The exercise itself is quite self explanatory, see the image to the right. If you wish to start off introducing the pole exercises to your horse in walk do so, but after my warmPole To Pole trot-page-001 up I jumped straight into it (not literally!!)  Start by  following the direction of the arrows in the image in trot before working on your diagonal poles. Do this off each rein until your horse is comfortable with his/ her approach.

Approaching the trot poles can be quite intimidating at first as they are quite skinny, but if you have a firm hold with strong leg this will stop your horse from drifting from left – right. Looking up where your going will help with this also, Don’t look down at the poles!! 

Canter – Likewise in the Canter, until you are happy with your trot work, then only begin with your canter. See the image to the side for your layout. Using the outside poles to begin with, your horse Pole To Pole canter-page-001should bounce over these in the canter. I started of by cantering over these in a straight line, then I started incorporating a circle in around the two poles.

Once you are happy with this of both reins, then you can attempt the canter poles down the center line. Dante found this slightly overwhelming at first. To your horse it may look like there are loads of poles scattered on approach which in turn will helped him learn the placement of his feet & help him with his straightness but on your approach sit up tall, keep your leg firm & look to where you want to go.

The Verdict

After doing this exercise on both reins, I done in 2- 3 times on each rein, in both trot and canter. I always tried to finish after the 3rd or 4th attempt if it was good!

Warning: Over doing this exercise can be draining not only on yourself but on your horse, the lack of concentration goes after a while and your horse will start to anticipate the exercise. 

So give it a go, start of your Monday with this simple yet effective exercise!

And don’t forget to tag us in your Instagram posts so we can see how you get on.

Thanks for reading,