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!


Exercise 1 – Flat To The Mat

It has been some time since an exercise has been done here at No Bucking Way. I certainly feel a little rusty especially when it came to planning & thinking out some exciting exercises to set up & try out for you guys.

Don’t you worry though, I have decided to start the year with a lovely flatwork exercise. I struggle sometimes to stay concentrated whilst riding, especially during these dark evenings. I spend most of my time thinking about when I am going to be finished rather than the work I want to focus on with Dante in the arena.

Look no further, I have compiled this lovely exercise for you to try out. Of course as always it comes in sections, so keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know!

The Set Up

For this exercise, you will need 6 poles. See the image below as to how they should be laid out in your arena. If you can, try to keep one side of your arena free so that you have that extra bit of space when it comes to doing certain parts of the exercise.

The distance between the canter poles should be walked out with 10 footsteps between them. This worked well for Dante, but it can also be adjusted to suit your horse or pony by adding in or taking away a footstep.

The Benefits

Sharpens up your transitions

Improves your eye for a stride

Improves your horses balance & suppleness

Improves Flexability

How To Ride This Exercise?

Step 1: As always, we 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 before we began, also making sure he was moving forward from my leg. As you progress into this exercise you will see that it is all about Transitions in certain parts.

Leg Yielding. Focus on getting 2-3 steps from your horse

Step 2: The Leg Yield. Yes, I said it! I decided to challenge myself as well as you all with this one. I spend the guts of 15 minutes practicing this in walk around the arena on both reins. This really helped to supple & relax Dante before we got into serious business.

If you dont know the aids for leg yielding, see the link below! Dont forget if your horse struggles but manages to get one or two steps always remember to reward your horse! Small wins will give you big wins in the long run.

Steps For riding the perfect Leg Yield

Step 3: Once you have mastered your leg yield, it is then time to start putting some focus on your canter poles. You want your approach to be calm, collected & relaxed. And once you reach pole one you want a smooth canter all the way through until you land after pole 4. Try this a couple of times. Once your happy with how your horse is moving we can then begin to piece everything together.

Piecing your Leg yield & Canter together

Step 4: Lets get Down to business. Now that we have established some key components to our exercise from step 2 & 3, It is finally time to piece everything together. See the image to the left. In this you are putting together your leg yield, your canter & some pole work also.

Remember to sit calm, & really focus on using your legs for your transitions. Begin by leg yielding across the long side of your arena, once you hit the track remember to ride your horse straight & keep them moving forward. Once you reach your corner, in the image where it is marked with the red x, this is your spot for asking your horse up into canter. Continue to canter around your corner and over your single canter pole. This is a 10-15m circle. So sitting up tall as you ride this circle is important, not only to balance yourself, but to keep your horse balanced also.

Step 5: Once you are happy with the above, you are now ready to graduate on to the final & full “Flat to the Mat” exercise. This will incorporate everything, leg yielding, canter poles & your upward transitions. See below an image as to how you should ride it! Remember to sit quiet & remain quiet with your hands over your canter poles. One of my worst habits!

Once you are happy with how your horse is riding this exercise, remember to always leave your horse on a good note.

I found this exercise super productive & really made me focus during my riding sessions. Sometimes when you have a plan in place & pre plan your riding sessions, results really start to show.

Give it a go, & be sure to tag me in any videos you take of you doing this exercise. I unfortunately didn’t get any footage of this one, but I will be sure to take some in future. As for the name of this exercise, dont ask, Thinking of inventive exercise names is a serious down fall of mine!

Keep your eyes peeled, I have a lovely challenging jumping exercise coming up next, not to mention there are loads of poles involved. My favourite!

Until Next Time,


Two Simple Pole Exercises for Young Horses

Since buying Cosmo I’ve had to go back and re-hash some old exercises I used to do with Coco but with all the extra experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years, I’ve also picked up a few new exercises that I think will be very beneficial to Cosmo’s development.

Polework is so important when schooling your youngster but its also important not to overdo it with anything too difficult or overly complicated. So below are two simple polework exercises I’ve done with Cosmo since I bought him.

Straight Line of 5

Probably one of the most basic pole exercises you can do but also one of the most beneficial. A simple straight line of 5 poles is great for working to build your horse’s topline. The extended line of poles encourages them to stretch out and work across their backs and you can create a deeper stretch by lengthening out the poles, even by just half a foot.

To take this exercise to the next level, gradually start raising the poles into low cavalettis, starting with the middle pole. Over time you should be able to get to a point where the middle three poles are raised and then you can begin to raise the height as your horse’s topline develops.

Serpentine of Poles

I found this particular layout very good for a variety of reasons. It’s a simple set up – one set of three trot poles on the diagonal and another set of five trot poles, connected to the first set, on the opposite diagonal.

When setting this up, make sure to place two of the trot poles within the set of five so that they create a funnel into the centre of the set of three. This helps maintain straightness when attempting the set of three. I also like to place the poles slightly further apart on the set of five to encourage Cosmo to stretch down and engage himself over the poles.

The full exercise should be done in a figure of 8 so the key thing to remember is rhythm. You want to maintain a consistent rhythm as you move from one set of poles to the next. It’s also important to remember not to interfere with your horse. When doing these kind of exercises with your youngster you want them to figure poles out for themselves so if they don’t meet the exercise perfectly to begin with, don’t worry, with repetition and a consistent rhythm, they will get the hang of it.

The last thing to focus on is straightness. Young horse’s tend to be quite wiggly with their arses swinging out behind them doing it’s own thing so make sure to do your best to support your horse’s body using your legs to keep him as straight as possible. You won’t always get it bang on but over time they’ll eventually learn.

Check out Cosmo taking on these exercises in our demonstration video below:

These are two very simple exercises that are perfect for introducing any horse to polework. They’re not overly complicated but they’re enough to get them thinking about where they’re putting their feet, and to really get them working across their back. Hopefully you’ll find these as useful as I did!

Thanks for reading,


October Exercise – Coming Full Circle

It has been forever since we have done an exercise post here at No Bucking Way. We have so many new exciting ideas for our exercises & with the addition of Cosmo to the gang we have really had to think hard going back revisiting & reviving our older “young horse” exercises.

Prepare to be excited & keep your eyes peeled for Orla’s first Cosmo exercise next week, but up first we have one all about Dante. As hard as it is to say, this is an exercise for the older slightly more experienced horse. I can’t believe I am referring to Dante as Experienced…. What has the world come to!

Don’t worry though, I like to keep my exercises extremely versatile & adjustable, as you know Dante can pick & choose is moods, she if you have a young horse, an older horse, experience or unexperienced keep scrolling to find out all about riding our “Coming Full Circle” exercise!

Side Note: I rode this exercise on Dante wearing my Reinrite training aid. You may have noticed this on Dante the past few weeks. A full review is coming next week, I have been trialing this aid in almost every aspect of our training!

The Set Up

For this exercise, you will need 5 poles, & 3 x cavalletti’s stands to raise your poles in the centre of your arena. Clear your arena/field as best you can, removing any obstacles except for what is laid out in the image below. This is so you can make use of the entire arena & give you and your horse as much space as you can get!

The space between your canter poles should be 10 footsteps. I adjusted mine to 12 as I wanted to push Dante in his canter a little bit whilst still maintaining control.

The Benefits Of This Exercise

  • Improving your canter rhythm
  • Maintaing a steady canter rhythm
  • Improving your horses suppleness
  • Great for improving your horses balance
  • Improves your eye for a stride

Steps For Riding This Exercise

Step 1:

  • As per any of our NBW exercises, we recommend a good 15/20 minute warm up prior to beginning. For this exercise, In my warm up I focused on riding figures of 8 & serpentines in trot, this got Dante bending & flexing around my leg, as well as making him listen & think to the aids I was asking him to do.
  • As I moved on to my canter, getting a forward moving canter from Dante was most important. I focused on pushing on the long sides of the arena & holding on the shorter sides of the arena. This not only wakes Dante up, but it gives me the active canter that I am looking for prior to beginning any pole work exercise.

Step 2:

  • Once you are happy with your warm up, starting this exercise piece by piece is key to nailing it when you come to putting the entire exercise together.
  • See the image below to the left, start by cantering your 20m circle or 15m circle over your ground pole at A. You are looking for a consistant canter here from your horse, no rushing to the pole, no rushing after the pole. A Smooth consistent canter throughout.
  • Your position in the saddle should not change either, you should not treat the ground pole as anything different than a stride for your horse. Stay riding forward, keeping your contact on the reins with your leg still firmly on to keep your horse moving forward.
  • Once you are happy with your horses performance over the single pole at A, then can you begin to piece in the pole at C at the other end of your arena as per the image above on the right. Again ride both circles the exact same. if your legs are not starting to ache at this point you need more leg!

Tip: When you are riding your circle, look to the centre holding your inside rein out away from your horses neck. Having your inside rein opened out will direct your horse to where he should be travelling but it will also automatically position your shoulders correctly moving in the same direction with your horse.

Step 3:

  • Once you are happy with the way your horse is moving over both poles positioned at A&C in your arena, you can then move on to your raised poles positioned at B in the center of your arena. Raised poles should not differ from your ground pole with how you ride into them. Everything stays exactly the same!
  • See the image below. When you are approaching your raised poles, remember that you are riding them on a circle, keep your leg on, holding out your inside rein directing you horse over the poles. Your horse may find this slighty difficult as he has to travel over the poles on a bend, but still keep that consistant canter that you had over the single ground pole as above.
  • Do not look at the poles on the ground, remember to always look to where you are going! Don’t worry if your horse rushes over these poles or gets excited the first few times. Practice this circle until you are happy with your horses & how he approaches in & out of the raised poles before moving any further.

Step 4:

  • Now that you have completed all the above steps, it is time to complete our ” Coming Full Circle” exercise. Please excuse the dodgy diagram for this one! Who knew circles could get so complicated!
  • See the image below. Like in Step 2, begin by riding over your black circle as per the image, ride this no different that you did at the beginning, as you ride out of the black circle, you are then riding up your arena into your second circle, your red circle in the middle.
  • The trick with approaching your middle circle is to anticipate your space, you can make full use of the centre of your arena on your approach to your raised poles. Remember not to look at your poles, when you approach then, but to look ahead of you in the direction you want your horse to go!
  • Finally after you go over your raised poles, ride your circle out on to track moving up the arena again to your green circle at the end of your arena at C.
  • By this stage I found that my body was getting quite fatigued & my legs were aching! So keep your focus & remember as above to keep your forward consistant canter. Look to where you are going always, never at the pole on the ground!

And there you have it! My step by step guide to riding our “Coming Full Circle” exercise. It is tougher than it looks but it is very rewarding once you finish.

If you wish to adjust this exercise for a more unexperienced horse, you can take out the raised poles at B and replace then with a simple ground pole. Or if you wish to make it more difficult you can place 3 raised canter poles at both A & C in your arena instead of the ground poles!

Like I said, it is a very versatile exercise & can be adjusted to meet anyone’s needs. Be sure to give it a try out over the weekend, it is a great winter exercise & extremely simple to set up!

As always, if you have any questions be sure to drop me a PM and I will get back to you asap, but for now fell free to like share & tag your friends, lets get everyone Coming Full circle with this exercise!

As Always, thank you for reading,


Top 5 Flatwork Exercises that Everyone Must Do!

Flatwork by far is one of the most important things to focus on with any horse young or old. It’s benefits are not only rewarding, but with a good Flatwork foundation you will in turn see massive improvements in your jumping.

Check out some of my go to exercises hat I have been focusing on the last few weeks, while there are adjusted to Dante & his ways, I am sure you will all find something to add to your Flatwork routines!

Bend Left, Bend Right

Having a big horse can have its hardships & challenges. Getting them to be supple even to do it whilst being relaxed is tough. Then try move on to bending them correctly, or flexing those neck muscles, this is where you come into difficulties especially if they are not used to it. But I have learned a way to help loosen Dante out, and this short yet effective exercise really helps me out before I start any jumping.

Exercise: After a good warm up, I let Dante have a 5 minute stretch on a long rein. When gathering up my reins to go back into work, I make sure both reins are even. Remaining in walk I bring Dante to the left circling him back to the right & I continue this pattern until he is accepting the contact and turning with a slight feel of the rein. Be sure to maintain a even contact on both reins, using your hips and body movements to back up your aids. It is all about backing everything with your legs also. In the long run I eventually will hopefully be able to do this with the pressure of my legs rather than using my reins as direction pointers.

Push On the Long, Hold on The Short

This is by far one of my most feared exercises. But one that has a fantastic effect on Dante. With him being so big and floppy he finds it hard to hold himself together. This exercise is brilliant to help him maintain his balance, & it really helps him grow his topline.

I will warn you, doing this with a horse for the first time be sure to remember to grip with your lower legs, this will help you keep your balance. To ride this, you are basically using the long sides of your arena to push & lenghten out your horses canter, using the short sides of the arena to shorten & really focus on collecting your canter.

Your legs will feel this exercise for sure as will your hips! Try using the motion of your hips to push your horse forward, you really want to be able to use this when you are jumping a round of fences, being able to push your horse for the longer stride is something we all want to do, as well as having to sit back and hold your horse for the shorter stride without your horse falling into canter.

One downside, your horse will take time to adjust to this exercise. They are clever animals, they will start to anticipate the exercise by remembering. So keep the exercise frequent enough that you can start to see the difference. I tend to keep this as an exercise I do in my jumping warm ups its helps get that extra bit of fizz out too!

Leg Yield – Lateral Work

Something I thought I would never have the patience for, let alone a horse that would actually cooperate with me to do it. I now finally understand the art of lateral work & the magic that it can create when you really begin to incorporate it into your weekly flatwork sessions.

We have started off simple with Dante. We have almost nearly mastered this in the walk, & only dabble in doing some lateral work in trot always trying to finish him when he does it correctly. I find this a great exercise to do toward the end of my flatwork sessions, as he is already loose & moving forward, I find it easier to get him soft & collected. Other times though, I use this exercise at the beginning of my sessions to get him to soften slightly, it depends on his moods!

How I Ride this: Starting in walk, from A in your arena i come in 1/2 meters from the outside track. The main thing is to keep riding Dante straight before I start asking him to do anything. Once I am happy I then begin to ask Dante to move over on to the outside track. Making sure Dante has his neck flexed away from the track, you should always be able to see your horses eye, I then open out my outside rein using my inside leg to push him over. Always make sure not to drop the contact on you inside rein as you need this to keep your contact. I have been using my schooling whip to reinforce my aids. When your horse reaches the outside track the most important thing to remember is to ride your horse straight! What i normally do is push Dante forward into trot remaining in that contact for a few strides once he is straight on the track.

20 Meter Circles – Push in, Push Out

Canter work can be boring, there are only so many times you can do those laps around the arena before you tend to get quite fed up. So instead of aimlessly cantering around your arena how about we add in some lateral work to your canter circles.

This is a great exercise to do, it also helps with getting your horse moving away from your leg. I do this exercise in trot to begin with then I move it up into canter.

Exercise: A good starting point to really open your eyes to this exercise is to place an object in the middle of your 20 meter circle, this can be a cone, a mounting block or your instructor! Start by riding your 20 meter circle, once you pass your starting point start using your outside leg to push your horse in toward the object you have placed in the middle, keeping on your circle, then begin to use you inside leg to start pushing your horse back out on your original circle. Remember to keep an even contact, try using your legs to do all the work with your reins as a back up. And the most important thing to remember, you should always be able to see the white of your horses eye as they bend & flex in around your leg.

Start Walking

Start Walking. Who would of thought it, how important can your horses walk be? Well trust me it is an important one. How else are you going to get good marks in your dressage test ehh!! It is a gait that is always forgotten, but I love focusing on Dante’s walk. This may be because this is the hardest one to get a steady rhythm in.

At the beginning of almost all of our riding sessions, Dante does this little skip & a hop out of slight protest against walking forward. He finds it hard to hold a contact a gather himself in an outline in walk, which worries me but also challenges me. I have learned that if I focus in our walking half way through our flatwork session or at the end I get a much better reaction.

While I focus on keeping Dante held together, I also do a lot of walk to halt transitions, using my legs & seat to push him forward. Focusing on your own position at this time is also vital. your seat in walk should be the same in all other gaits, so I take those 5-10 minutes to focus on keeping my shoulders back, my heels down and my leg positioned correctly just behind the girth. The say your muscles have great memory, & I feel like practicing in walk is one least liable to end in an accident!

Now that you have my 5 go to flatwork exercises, try piecing them together in one of your training sessions & you will have yourself a hardcore workout plan with some amazing results.

I pick days at the start of the week & the end to really focus on my flatwork, keeping things fun & exciting in between with field hacks & some jumping lessons. There is also no harm in ending any of your flatwork exercises with a small jump. If your horse loves jumping, it will certainly leave them on a good note doing something they love, who knows they may even start to think that if they perform their flatwork well they will be rewarded with that jump at the end of their session!

If you give any of the above a go, be sure to tag us in any videos, or if you have any go to flatwork exercises, be sure to write them in the comments below, I am becoming ever so fond of learning new flatwork techniques!

Until Next Time,


August Exercise – Attack Those Poles

It is safe to say that it has been quite some time since we posted an exercise for you guys to try out! With a lot of focus recently being put on our jumping, we have finally taken some time out to focus more on our pole work. This is mainly to focus on growing that hind end even more, and if you keep on reading transition work is still playing a huge part in our training schedule.

Keep scrolling to find out all about our “Attack Those Poles” exercise.

What Will you Need

To start you will like always need a fully cleared arena, or space in your field. You will need, 13 poles in total, then depending on if you wish to raise the poles, you will need cavalettis or as you can see from my picture I used potties to give them a slight raise!

For Dante I always do 4 & a half steps between regular trot poles, with 5 footsteps in between any raised poles. In between the split up trotting poles I walked out 13 and a half footsteps.

(This gave Dante 2 trot strides in between each set of trot poles)

As per the image below you will see how your arena should look when you are finished setting up.

What This Exercise Is Good For

  • Maintaining a Steady Rhythm
  • Perfecting upward & Downward transitions
  • Rider composure
  • Straightness
  • Building Your Horses Hind

Guide On How To Ride This Exercise

  • As always we recommend a good warm up for your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. This exercises has a lot of transition work involved, with a great mixture of Trotting & cantering.
  • I would recommend focusing on your 20metre circles, upward & downward transitions from trot to canter and again from canter to trot, you really want your horse moving from you leg, this will help set you & your horse up nicely before tackling this exercise.
  • To begin, start by tackling the exercise in sections. Start of with the diagram below, keep all your poles flat (not raised) so as to give your horse a chance to get properly acquainted with the poles. Don’t forget that if your horse is not used to this much pole work their muscles will fatigue a lot quicker.
  • Going diagonal to diagonal, go over the line of trot pole twice to three times on each rein. Remember you are focusing on keeping your horse straight, aiming for the centre of each trot pole, keeping your upper body still & hands quiet as you ride through. Your legs should be used to keep your horse moving forward and also used to stop your horse from drifting to the right or left of the center of the poles. Once you are happy with this you can then move on to the next stage.
  • It is now time to start thinking about your canter. You will see two canter poles placed across the opposite diagonal to your trot poles. Start by going through them once or twice of each rein to get the feel for the striding, I have walked out 2 strides in between each pole. You will also see that you have to canter between your two trot poles. This will help keep your horse straight and avoid them from drifting.
  • When you are happy with how your horse is working in the canter, then can you move to piecing the entire exercise together. See the image below.
  • Start by trotting over your poles, again, at this stage you can keep them all flat or you can begin to raise them depending on the horse. Once you are over your poles, at the Marked X on the diagram above, you then must transition into canter, cantering around to your canter poles across the diagonal. Keeping a smooth consistant canter here is key.
  • Once over the canter poles, when you reach your corner focus on transitioning down to trot. Again try to keep it as smooth as possible, not to interfere too much.
  • When you are happy with all of the above, you can then piece the entire exercise together. The flow is basically Trot poles, Canter, Canter Poles, Trot, Trot poles. It is all about the consistency in your rhythm whilst there are obstacles in the way, this should not effect the way you ride. See the image below as to how it should ride with the X’s marked as your points of transition.

I will advise, that this is quite a heavy exercise if you are doing it on a horse that is not used to such variety. I would recommend doing this exercise over 2 days as not to fatigue your horse. And trust me, Day 1 can be sloppy! It really opens your eyes to how much you move & adjust your body once you see an obstacle in the way when really you shouldn’t change anything at all.

Give it a go, & tag us in any videos that you take so I can see how you get on! I love watching everyone’s progress.

As always, thank you for reading, if you have any questions on this exercise be sure to drop us a DM!