Exercise 3 – Grid Lock ft. Jump Start Showjumps

I am loving doing these exercises, the reaction is just amazing! I am trying to out do myself each time thinking up bigger, better & more exciting schooling exercises for you all.

I have seen a good bit of conversation lately on Grid Work, with that I decided to put together a simple yet effective exercise for you all to try out, one suitable for the experienced or beginner ride, it also comes with a string of benefits too for horse & rider.

We have a special addition to our exercise post this week let me introduce you to Jump Start Showjumps who have kindly gifted us 3 sets of their fabulous new Pole Raisers. I have incorporated them into the Grid Lock exercise, to show you how useful & amazing they are in your everyday training.

Keep scrolling to find out more!

The Set Up

For your set up, your arena does not need to be completely free. If you wish for your horse to be less distracted you can of course set your arena up with just the grid.

Your “Grid” will be set up across the diagonal of your arena. See the image below. You will need 3 sets of your Jump Start Showjump Pole Raisers, and 6 poles. If you dont have your Pole Raisers, you can use blocks yo raise your poles or you can alternatively use wings in their place.

The Distance between your first two raised poles is 10 footsteps. I also stacked two sets of Pole Raisers to raise the second pole a little higher. The distance then to your jump is one stride. To walk this out you will need 8 large footsteps. (This may need to be adjusted for pony strides!)

I also put a placing pole after the jump. This helped Dante with holding himself together a bit better after he landed. I walked out 14 footsteps for this, he has a big stride or 4 large footsteps. This can be adjusted as you jump your grid.

The Benefits of This Exercise

  • Improves your accuracy
  • Improves yours & your horses Rhythm
  • Improves riders confidence with jumping
  • Gives the rider time to put more focus on their position
  • Helps with Straightness

How To Ride This Exercise

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 it was all about a consistant rhythm in the canter, whilst creating an active forward canter focusing on getting his hindend underneath him to create that energy I will need before I started on my grid. Once you are happy with how your horse is feeling follow the steps below to get the most out of our “Grid Lock” exercise.

Step 1: Start your grid by doing it in sections. Starting easy & building yourself up to the final hurrah! See the image to the right. Your first task is your two canter poles with one stride into your ground pole. Remember before you approach your grid get a consistant canter if you have to circle a few times, that is ok! On your approach remember that they are raised ground poles, a jumping position is not required. It is up to your horse to get over the poles, you are there to guide them! Remember to keep your contact consitant throughout, not to drop it once you reach the first pole. (yes that is my bad habit!)

Step 2: As you go through the grid a few times, try to focus on getting your horse to land on the correct lead change as he comes over the last pole. If you are having trouble with this, when you reach your corner as you land bring your horse to trot & then straight away ask them for canter on the correct lead. Once you are happy it is time to move on to some proper grid work by adding in some jumps!

Step 3: Leaving your ground poles on your pole raisers adjust your jump up-to a height that you feel comfortable with. Your horse will be used to going down this grid by now, when you ride down your grid again now with a jump being introduced, try to focus on your position in the saddle. Are you sitting up tall between poles, shoulders back? how is your jumping position? Also start to think about your horses straightness through the grid are they are veering to a certain side? Are they struggling to lift their leg over the fence? Well Lets complete this grid by adding in some V poles.

Step 4: The last step is to add in some V poles. I added them in to get Dante lifting his legs properly, and to help improve the shape he makes over a fence. He can be quite lazy at times, V poles make him concentrate that bit more & sharpen up his jumping. They are also great for horses that veer to the left or the right. To set them up simply place them either side of your jump, with the V forming n the middle of the fence as per the image below.

Step 5: Jump your horse down this grid until you are happy with their performance, I tend not to over do it with grids, I also up the height each time I jump down it so that Dante has something different each time. Remember this is a gymnastics exercise for your horse so they will be tired quicker than normal!

If you are having some difficulties with your horse or with their jumping, remember that especially if they are young they are still learning. Their bodies are getting used to all these new muscles & movements so don’t be too hard on yourself or your horse & do try not to over work them. Grid work is a great confidence builder for horses learning to jump or for youngsters. Keep things simple.

About Jump Start Showjumps Pole Raisers

Pole Raisers are a clever, easy to use training tool for you & your horse. They are used to raise ground poles during training session to help improve your horses flatwork. There are a string of benefits that will enhance your horses performance such as helping your your horse understand the placing of their legs, balance, co-ordination & helping them to concentrate during your training sessions. They can be used singularly or you can stack them also for more height if you wish.

The Quality – I can put my hand on my heart & say that the pole raisers certainly stood the test of time , they are 100% weather proof! I am slightly ashamed to say I literally left them out in hail, rain & snow over the weekend and they didn’t disintegrate or soften at all. I found them really easy to carry around the place, they are made from wood so you would expect them to be quite heavy but they are super manageable.

My thoughts on the product – If I had a euro for every time someone in the yard told me they were amazed by this product I would have at least €20 by now! I am super impressed. They are the perfect addition to any pole mad equestrian. They are heavy enough to not move out of place if your horse knocks the pole off likewise their is enough freedom for the pole to be able to roll off when your horse knocks, super important!

The price & purchase information – The value for money is outrageous! for a set of two the cost is €8.50 or if you wish to buy a set of 3 pairs they cost €24. Compared to some plastic items on the market I really couldn’t recommend them more. If you want to place your order get in Contact with John O’Toole by calling 086 7337925 or be sure to drop him a PM on Facebook.

This weeks exercise was one of my favorites yet. Let me know if you give it a go at home or in a lesson by tagging us in your videos, in turn if you have any questions dont hesitate to get in contact! Be sure to also follow Jump Start Showjumps on their Instagram page.

Be sure to head over to our Instagram page to check out Dante tackling this Exercise, He is a superstar!

Until Next Time & if you want to feature in one of our exercises or collaborate be sure to drop us a PM.


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! 


January Ultimate Exercise – “Figure Of Death”

Wow!! What a reaction to our first “Ultimate series” exercise! It looks like we weren’t the only ones looking to up our game & get right back into work for the New Year!

This weeks exercise, now that you have hopefully mastered the trot we decided to focus in on our canter work. Luckily for me I have both Coco & Dante to trial this exercise on and what a difference both of them gave me!

Keeping a persistant rhythm & keeping the same pace towards the end of this exercise was key, keep reading to see how we approached this weeks Figure of Death!

What You Will Need?

A lot of stamina & energy for starters & patience!!

You will physically need yet again an arena, or an open field with 6 ground poles. The distance between the square of poles should be 9(pony)10(horse) footsteps. But if you want to cheat making sure they are placed exactly parallel to each other as per the diagram below & you should be fine (unless you are riding a very small pony!)

Make sure you have cleared your arena of any other wings/poles as you will need all the space you can get!

What This Exercise Is Good For?

  • Keeping a consistant rhythm
  • Keeping a consistant, even contact with your horse
  • Flying changes
  • Control of pace
  • Improves your eye for a stride

How To Ride This Exercise?

  • Start your warm up as normal, keeping in mind not to over do it, this exercise is a work out in itself! Try 5 minutes walk on each rein getting them loose, followed by trot work incorporating some 20 metre circles, and finally begin with your canter. We focused a lot this week on pushing for a long stride on the long side of the arena & holding for a short canter on the shorter side of the arena. This will get your horse listening, helping you when you need to push or hold on your approach to poles when needed.
  • Begin this exercises by using the two single ground poles, to focus on your 20metre canter circles , once you are happy with how your horse is approaching them & have done them on both reins you may begin to start the full exercise. See The Diagram Below
Start the exercise by doing sections first, once happy with your approach then piece it all together.
  • Picking up canter, make sure you have a forward rhythm keeping in mind your focus is to keep the exact same rhythm throughout the entire exercise (this is why riding it in sections to begin with works wonders!)
  • Riding your 20metre circle first over the single ground pole, continue to ride out into your corner looking for your approach into your square. The use of your corners & your arena is vital!
  • Continue by approaching your square, this is where it may begin to get tricky. Some horses will ride it as if they are approaching a fence so their canter may go up a pace or two. Here you are trying to sit, hold and maintain a steady pace.
  • Once you approach the square, your aim is to get your flying change over the second ground pole of the square, not the first! (This mistake was made a few times!!) Once you land over the second pole hopefully on the correct lead continue to canter out into your corner. Don’t let your horse cut the corner or turn, get rid of those bad habits!!
  • Once you have mastered this then can you proceed to piece the entire exercise together. Don’t worry if it takes a few tries, remember you are asking a good bit from your horse. See the diagram below
  • Do keep in mind, if you complete the entire exercise once & your horse has done it well, stop & reward him! Even end your session there on that good note, last thing you want is to over do it and end up with a fed up horse! Take the wins when you can.
It’s not as difficult as you think! It is quite rewarding when you complete the entire figure of 8 loop!

How To ask for a Flying Change (left to right)

Sitting tall & quiet in the saddle, wrap your right leg around the girth this will keep your horse moving forward when being asked to change, moving your left leg behind the girth you are giving the signal for the opposite hind leg to strike into the lead. Keeping a tight contact on the left rein, softening the right to give your horse freedom to change forward. 

There you have it the “Figure of Death” I would be lying if I said this exercise was easy, it certainly was not! I was so close to giving up on Dante, his brain just couldn’t seem to process it first time round, but persistance was key, never give up!

Coco was the dream riding this, she is quite compact & holds herself together much better than Dante does, she was quite easy to control around all the corners, and way easier to hold for the shorter & longer canter strides I needed.

If you are finding this exercise difficult, stick to Riding the exercise section by section each day, your horse will begin to understand & you will get the results you want over time, I promise!

As always, pop over to our Instagram to have a look at our attempts at this exercise!

Until next time,


January Ultimate Exercise – “Trot Til You Drop”

Welcome to 2019, what a “bucking” year it has been! We have had many ups & of course a number of downs too (isn’t that right Orla!!) 

Instead of throwing a shit-tone of throwbacks & giving you a round up from our 2018 year, we thought you guys would appreciate a little gentle push back into getting your horse on track for the spring/summer season. It would be quite rude of us not to share some of our go to exercises with you all, so please take a moment to welcome our “January Ultimate Exercise Series”.

We have 4 fabulous exercises in the pipeline for you guys to try & test out for yourselves. Both Dante & Coco will be put to the test themselves, between the both of them they have had some significant time off over the last few weeks so it shall be an interesting dynamic!

So Feast your eyes below on our first simple, yet effective exercise to ease everyone back into some light work. 

What you Will Need?

For starters you will need an arena or an open field & 12 Ground poles. Set the poles up 3 a piece. See the diagram below.

I set up the poles with the distance of 4.5 footsteps in between, this may need to be adjusted to 4 footsteps for ponies, or if you intend on your horse to stretch, I would do 5 footsteps in between. 

 If you wish to make the exercise that bit more difficult, you can add in wings to make the trot poles into raised trot poles, or if you have them you can use cavletti poles. 

What this Exercise is Good For?

  • Control in your pace
  • Accuracy on approach to your poles
  • Maintaining a consistant rhythm

How To Ride this Exercise

  • Firstly, I would recommend a good warm up before you start, especially if your horse has been off over Christmas. From being in that little bit more over the winter months & being in the stable, getting them warmed up properly before any intense work is vital to ensure no injuries are picked up. 
  • I Focused on a lot of transition work before doing this exercise. With their being a lot of bending around your leg and keeping the consistant rhythm getting your horse to listen to you and your aids is vital. 
  • Start this exercise by approaching each set of poles singularly, a set of 3 at a time. As your horse begins to get into a steady rhythm, and starts to flow through the corners, then you can start piecing the “Pole course” together. See diagram below.
  • Focus mainly on not letting your horse fall in on the corners as you ride around the bends to your trot poles. Use your inside leg to support him around the corners, making sure not to drop your own shoulder as you ride around. 
  • Once you feel confident with your horse going over more than 2 sets of trot poles, then you can begin to piece the entire course together. See the diagram below to see the layout of the course I done.
  • You can see by my video over on our Instagram Page that Dante was quite hesitant and was putting in that extra half step before he went over the poles, this was mainly due to me holding him and not letting him drop the contact on approach. I intentionally done this,  he is the worst for trying to grab and pull the contact from my hands and using this simple trot pole exercise to get him thinking and holding himself together that bit better is a perfect way to start.

Sometimes, the simple exercises are the most effective, this infact really made me aware of how much I tend to let Dante grab the contact from my hands, and how I need to focus more on maintaining an even more consistant contact continually instead of stopping and starting. 

Perfecting these small bad habits over exercises that may seen simple will in the long run really stand to you when it comes to jumping a course of fences or when it comes to learning more complicated flat work techniques. 

Give this exercise a go, it was one that really brought some of mine & Dante’s flaws to light. If your posting on Instagram so we can keep track of everyone’s progress Make sure to tag us & mention the #UltimateJanuaryExercise hashtag

 We can all get fit together, with some great encouragement from one another, its about time the Horse Industry starts building people up with positive comments rather than the negative! 

Be sure to leave your comments below or any riding tips I missed out on that you think will be helpful! 
As always, thank you for Reading & Happy New Year! 


May Monthly Exercise – The Zig – Zag

This month, Dante & I have decided to go back to a bit more flat work to focus on Flexibility & Rhythm. Hoping that in the long run this will tremendously help us out with our jumping. 

The Set Up

Place 4-6 poles in a “zig-zag” shape down the center of your arena, or if you wish out in ZIG ZAG NBW-page-001the field.  Check the diagram to the right. (Minimum 4 poles required)

What Horse is this Exercise Useful For?

This exercise is good for a horse who anticipates there work. The different & tight turns will keep your horse thinking & stop them from guessing where they are going next, therefore they have to stop and listen to you & your aids.

How To Ride The Exercise

This exercise is quite versatile, in a sense that you can do your trot and canter work, as well as doing everything in a walk also if you wish. 

Trying to maintain a consistant rhythm through out this exercise is key. This will all help you when you translate it up into jumping, riding tight canter circles and approaching the poles correctly & smoothly are all the basis of your jumping. 

zig 2-page-001See the diagram to the left to see how to ride the exercise in trot, focusing on those tight turns and getting your horse bending around your leg. I also use this exercises as a warm up in walk getting Dante moving correctly and working forward from my leg. Below to the right, In canter I rode this exercise, with difficulty at first but as you ride it more frequent your horse has to wait for your aids through out.

As your horse progresses, working on your canter leads throughout this exercise is great, it not only lets you use the poles as a guide, but it doesn’t give your horse much space to rush off in between poles either. zig 1-page-001

My biggest problem lately is keeping my body still, at the end of the day they are poles on the ground, I certainly don’t need to be doing any magical jumping positions over them!

Below I have added in 3 additional patterns that you can ride using the zig-zag exercise. If you are riding circles start off by riding large circles, as your horse becomes more familiar with the routine then begin to challenge him by making them smaller. 


What these exercises helps your horse with

  • Stops them from Rushing
  • Helps to maintain a good rhythm  
  • Helps with flexibility & tight turns

I hope the above exercises helps at least one of you, our readers! If you want us to try out anything for next months exercise make sure to drop us a mail, we will happily be your guinea pigs! 

But for now, enjoy that good weather & get your “zig-zag’s” out!