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

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

Exercise 2 – Oh Poley God!

Wow, what a reaction to our last exercise, thank you to everyone who liked & shared it. I have upped my game since & I can safely say I am happy to deliver a fabulous new grid/pole exercise for you all.

I have incorporated a mixture of everything, from pole work to some jumping in this exercise you are sure to be challenged, yet I hope you walk away feeling accomplished just like I did!

It looks a lot harder than it actually is, so dont be alarmed. It is suitable for the beginner as much as the more experienced horse.

Keep scrolling to find out how to set up & ride this exercise! 

The Set Up

For this exercise you will need your entire arena. 9 poles are needed, two set of cavalettis or two sets of small blocks to raise your poles & a set of wings to put up your jump.

See the image below. I have highlighted the ground poles in Red, the raised poles in purple & the pole where your jump is has been coloured blue.

The distance between the grids is as follows,

1 stride 6 large footsteps (1 for landing and one for take off then four large steps totalling 6 to make your one stride distance)

2 stride 10 large footsteps (1 for landing and one for take off then eight large steps totalling 10 to make your two stride distance)

The strides can be adjusted through out the exercise to best shit your horse. These suited Dante but I would recommend having someone on the ground to help assist with adjustments.

The Benefits Of This Exercise

  • Improve your approach to a fence, improving your eye for a stride
  • Focus on your position over fences & through a small grid 
  • Riding your corners
  • Consistant rhythm in the canter
  • Control & sharpening up your leg aids

How To Ride This Exercise

Step 1: As always, I advise that you do a good warm up with your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise I put the focus on having a forward active canter in my warm up. Pushing him forward & holding on the long & short sides of my arena trying to focus on using my seat & leg aids. Once you are happy with how your horse is feeling follow the steps below to get the most out of our “Oh Poley God” exercise.

Step 2: let’s Start with the small jump across the diagonal. Pick up your canter & begin with riding your horse across the small jump Positioned as per the image. The point of placing the jump here was to help aid Dante with a leg change across his diagonal as well As help me to gain a bit more control. You might have noticed the two ground poles tunnelled in front of the jump. This was to help keep Dante straight & to stop him drifting either side on his approach to the fence. Focus on Riding across the diagonal until you are happy with your approach & your landing. Think about keeping your upper body still & remember think to use your legs & seat over being fussy with your hands!

Step 3: It’s time to begin with The grid. Don’t be afraid of the thought of it, Think of it as a set of four canter poles. To begin with, I had the jump part of the grid as a ground pole. Approach your grid in canter, aiming to keeping a controlled & even rhythm. Don’t worry about not hitting the correct strides at first, your horse may take one or two goes to “find their feet” or to figure out what it is exactly they are doing! keep your leg on & maintain a steady hold of your contact into the first pole,

Step 3, 4 & 5 – The Grid

Step 4: Ride through the grid a few times, keep in mind though that you may not approach certain poles correctly but that is ok. Your horse will learn to adjust as he moves through it. Be sure to help your horse by sitting up tall, keeping your leg on & looking straight ahead of you while you ride through the grid. When you land after the the last pole dont come to a stop, keep your canter active & ride until you reach the long side of the arena.

Step 5: Now lets make things fun by adding in the jump in the middle of your grid. Again, this is not going to change anything in the way you ride down your grid. I kept the jump relatively small at 90cm, something that was big enough to get Dante to concentrate but small enough that it wouldn’t throw of my concentration. The key thing here is to sit up tall as you land after your fence, don’t forget about the two canter poles after your fence! Once you are happy with how your horse is working, it’s now time piece the entire oh Poley God exercise together.

Step 6: as you have already perfected the steps above, putting everything together will be easy. Start by riding down over your grid, but as you land you are continuing to ride across your diagonal over your small fence. Once you are happy with how your horse has ridden the entire exercise, remember to rewards & finish up! This is a very tiring exercise for your horse so do keep that in mind & try not to over work..


And there you have my Oh Poley God Exercise. This is a great one to do with a few friends in your riding school, or one to incorporate into riding lessons. You have a lot to work with whilst still riding away feeling accomplished!

If you are feeling brave or have a more experienced horse, you can of course make all the canter poles in your grid into fences. Remember nothing changes the way you ride them! 

Let me know how you ride this exercise & be sure to head over to Instagram to see how me & Dante got on! 

Darielle