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
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!
Well, it seems as if it has been months since I have done any Dante updates. I have successfully been doing my weekly lessons with my trainer Jer over the last few weeks, and the difference in Dante has been huge. Dante is ridden 5 times a week, jumped once or twice, 3 days of flatwork/polework & an easy day which may consist of a walk around the field! So it is safe to say he is in proper work at the minute!
Dante has finally began to mature & grow up, he is willing and I can see & feel that he is really enjoying this new learning curve. A lot of people told me that Lux horses take time to mature, and well I can honestly say that is 120% true!
Below I am going to run through some of the aspects of my training schedule, some rider error & some horse, mainly rider! There are a lot of things that need to be fixed but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day & either was Darielle or Dante! I am hoping our riding routine and some of the aspects of my training will help you guys who are trying to bring along your own horses, a lot of it is fine tuning at its best!
Flatwork, His Outline & The Trot
Firstly if you have seen one of our recent Instagram post, you will see a massive improvement from what he was! He finally is beginning to carry himself in an outline, with no more gadgets to encourage him down. I will admit, it took an awful lot of time and it was also more of a trust issue with Dante than anything else, he struggled to trust what my hands where doing or what my legs were guiding him to do. But determination got the best of me, some days I would only ride for 15 minutes, once he done something correctly I would finish up the session, this seemed to really sit in his mind, and soon after he figured it was easier to do things he was asked as it meant less work!
My legs are also undoubtedly stronger. When it comes to Dante everything is leg based, the less hands the better. If I had a euro for everytime I heard my trainer shout “Stop interfering with your hands let him do his job” I reckon I would have at least an extra €50!! He is a very sensitive horse, and very reactive at the same time to the smallest of touches, as the rider I need to learn to trust him, he’s not going to do any of his stupid carry on anymore.
The two words any old school equestrian hates to hear… Riding Gadgets.
I have started Alternating between riding with spurs or a schooling whip for one or two days a week. This was a suggestion from my trainer to encourage him to move & ride forward in his movements and what a game changer it has been. In the long run this will only help me the rider not have to rely on using so much leg strength to get him moving, some lessons 15 minutes in and my legs would be struggling to cope! So far it has worked, I basically have to sit there and when I feel him slacking he gets a squeeze and were off again! He is quite the clever horse I will admit. Dante gets used to things way to quick, he becomes blind to them after a while.
Keeping things different like rotating days for using spurs, a schooling whip or riding with nothing will be sure to keep him guessing and on his toes!
Straightness Training has been our next mission. We began to notice on his weaker rein that Dante was drifting an awful lot into fences on his right rein. This was corrected by putting V poles up on the side of the fence he was drifting into, to keep him straight but we then began to notice he was doing it during his flatwork sessions on the same rein also. To correct this I have linked the exercise below that I have been doing. I won’t lie it was a tough start but now I don’t need to poles as a guide to get him to flex!
With his straightness training, the overall goal for Dante is to focus on his weaker rein to help him build up his muscle correctly to keep it in line with the rest of his body. Watch this space, I am hoping I will begin to see massive improvements in his balance from this exercise alone!
Click herefor a more detailed look at the exercise I have been doing!
Dante’s Canter work has reached a hole new level of improvement! I am still quite shocked and in disbelief when I look at videos of him! We need to focus more on getting a bouncy canter making him work forward, with a lot of work needed on lengthening & shortening his stride, keeping him collected on the short sides of the arena and lengthening him out on the long sides.
I found on the lenghteneing of his canter he kept changing his lead onto his stronger rein, instead of bringing him back to a trot I kept pushing him forward. The reasoning behind this was A, he has mastered his leg changes so he had no excuse, and B, he has a terrible habit of switching legs to get out of hard work, pushing him through it as uncomfortable as it may be for him let alone for me, hopefully it will teach him that it is not the way out of work! Once he eventually does switches back to a correct lead, I transition down and reward him.
Keeping A Consistant Contact
My biggest downfall. It can be so inconsistent at times, no wonder the horse used to get so confused! It most definately throws him off when jumping especially on his landing.
I let my reins slip to easily getting too long & in turn I am not exactly helping him stay balanced. Keeping an even contact is so important, this is something I need to improve ASAP! The other downside to letting my reins get too long, when I go to gather them back up I tend to interfere to much with him trying to do his job. Basically I have to trust him more now, I need to just sit there, keep my leg and and stop pulling at him in fear he is going to take off!! I have to let it go and ride him on.
Enter my trust worthy Branch that has helped a lot with this issue.
I simply use it as 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!
Corners & Transitions
When riding in the corners, of the arena, my instructor told me to ride into as much “corner” as I possibly can. Keeping him flowing through them & keeping myself in a good upper body position (not leaning forward, sitting up tall with my shoulders back). Doing this in walk trot & even in the canter, focusing mainly on keeping him moving forward in the contact not breaking out of the gait that he is in. Practicing this will help with his jumping in a sence of his approaches and landing before & after fences with tight corners or bends.
Downward transitions, they are the devil. They need an awful lot of work, especially from canter to trot. I need to stop letting him run through the contact. He is basically plodding down into the trot transition, instead of flowing through it. I need to sit back and hold him together keeping leg on to push him forward. Again, my contact needs to remain consitant!!
Dante gets a visit from the physio every 3 months, or as close to every 3 months that I can do, he is a big horse. Standing at 17.2hh and constantly growing in muscle mass & strength, my physio recommended more regular visits to keep on top of his muscle gain. On her last visit she was pleasantly surprised with his progress and to say I was happy I was doing something right was an understatement!
Overall appearance – the thumbs up from our physio, massive improvements & muscle gain & growth. He was filling well in his hind end & neck, his topline has improved massively.
Our downside was our saddle. My physio recommended we get a professional fitter out. We previously had gone to holmstead who unfortunately after 5 saddle tries we were unsuccessful. We need something to give his shoulders & whitters more freedom & space in order to bulk up at the same speed as the rest of his body.
Exercises to continue – raised trot poles, on the straight & across the diagonal, changing between regular & raised trot poles. Canter work incorporate bounces, flat and raised. Transition work is also a massive help in building up your horses muscles.
Dante’s jumping to be fair to him, doesn’t really need an awful lot of work. He nearly has too much talent when it comes to his jumping. Everything at the minute basically comes down to fixing the smaller issues before & after the jump and with some good flatwork over the next few weeks.
It really just goes to show how important your flatwork is for a good jumping foundation. Without your flatwork you have nothing! I do feel like I could still write a full post on our jumping schedule for you all, would this be something you would be interested in?
Have you training schedules you & your horse are focusing on pre season at the minute?
I do love to keep things switches up, by bringing Dante out to the field and doing sessions out there, it is great for a change of scenery. Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you will be attempting our straightness training exercise.
With my lesson scheduled for tomorrow with my trainer, I do hope he is pleased with the results! Until Next Time,
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
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
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