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!


Transition Exercise’s For Your Horse

You may have noticed or seen over on our Instagram all my talk about transition work. Well they are the holy grail of everything when it come to putting manners on Dante, that and my instructor gave me loads of homework to do before our next lesson unamused face 

I have been focusing a lot on transition work when it comes to my lessons at home, and in my warm ups for competition. It is so beneficial not only for building up hind muscle but for using them as a form of putting manners on your horse when needed. I will admit I have been slacking slightly and have been letting Dante away with sloppy downward transitions, but keep reading to find out an exercise that I have done to help not only him but me in fixing this problem.

What I use Transitions For during my training sessions: 

  • To gain more control before & after fences
  • To get Dante to work off my leg more efficiently 
  • Getting Dante to listen & focus
  • Improving balance
  • Improve his hind end muscle

If your horse like mine has developed bad habits such as playing-up or taking off after jumps, I say give transition work a go. Using transitions after you land a jump can help you gather your horse, getting them to listen to you instead of taking off on their own accord. This in turn will help not only help with keeping a steady balanced canter after you jump, but in turn will help your horse find his feet and gain a more balanced canter. 

See below a great exercise I have been doing lately, helping me gain control by using my legs and seat over being to “handsy” during some of Dante’s outbursts of energy after jumping! 

How To Ride this Exercise: 

Step 1: Set up your arena as follows, simply two wings and a 2 poles in the center of the arena. If you wish to ride this exercise with a ground pole, that is fine, but I decided to incorporate a vertical to add a bit more of challenge for myself & for Dante.  

Step 2: Picking up canter, approach your fence, sitting still using your seat, legs to control the rhythm. I have been told by my trainer to use less hands, Still a fear of lacking in control that I am getting used to, but basically to keep a light contact into the fence, letting Dante do his job as I guide him in with my legs.

Fact: How I managed to get sprung with this exercise, well Dante was falling into his trot while transitioning down into canter after fences, or should I say me not focusing on the finer detail and letting him do it! 

Step 3: On your approach to the fence, you should preempt the rein you are going to land on so as when you land, two strides afterwards, you start your horse on a 10-15 meter circle keeping them in the canter. Once you come back on the original landing line prepare to bring your horse to a complete halt. This can be quite tricky, as with some horses with bad habits of rushing off, they will need time to adjust & get used to not being able to take control from the rider. 

Tip: Focus on using your legs & seat when asking your horse to come to an immediate halt. Sit back in the saddle, and apply pressure with your heel, if you wish to vocally say the word halt/stop this may help your horse piece that aids together. Remember to drop all aids and release pressure once your horse reacts to what you are asking them to do. This will act as a reward & make it easier for them to learn quicker. 

Step 4: Reward your horse. Reward & praise your horse when he(eventually!!) comes to a halt. repeat the exercise choosing to land on the opposite rein repeating the same steps. If your horse lands on the wrong lead, dont panic, push your horse to keep moving forward. This will help your horse to learn from themselves & learn about what leads they should be landing on. If your horse lands on the wrong lead just increase your landing circle size so that you give them more space. 

Tip: Don’t expect your horse to come to a complete halt on the first go, this will take practice as their muscles get used to what it is your asking them to do. It is best to start with canter to trot/walk transitions. Don’t be too hard on yourself, the first time I tried this with Dante, he tried to rear and take of into a fence!! 

This is also a great exercise to do on a simple 20metre circle, or if you want more of a challenge a 10m circle. Using various points of your circle to work on downward & upward transitions. Be sure to pick different points each time, and to mix the transitions up so that your horse doesn’t anticipate the exercise.

The Benefits & the outcomes

  • Help with Dante’s balance
  • Leg changes after fences, he will need to learn to balance himself by changing to the correct lead
  • Maintain a steady & consitant canter after I jump
  • Help build up his hind end, increasing his hind power
  • Relying on my leg aids more efficiently
  • Will make Darielle’s legs extremely strong (LOL)

Have you any specific transition exercises that you do? This is one I felt quite sceptical about at first especially when it came to posting it here, but look everyone has different ways of doing things. It works for me and that’s all that matters! 

Why not give it a go if you have a horse that rushes around courses, or a horse that you simply want to tell that you are the boss, Let me know in the comments below what you think, and what exercises you do

As always, thank you for reading,