I’m embracing my inventive side and coming up with new exercises to use with my boys! Why would I do this??? Well to be honest because I’m growing bored in the arena and I must say if I’m bored I know my horses defiantly are.
So this exercise needs a tad bit of tweaking as far as placement goes to make it seamless but it really worked well to keep the boys listening to me and being able to nip their anticipations in the bud (oh yes Cash I’m talking to you). All the poles were placed 4.5 feet apart from each other (4 ft. for Jack his strides a bit smaller yet).
Having the poles set up like the picture above in Y (hence the name) I can really change up how I use them to keep the boys attention. I can choose to ride just the poles down the center line, I can choose to ride the slanted poles along the diagonal (this is where I need to adjust the angle of the poles to a tad steeper for a true diagonal line but it still works) or I can use them to practice broken lines by going down the center line and choosing left or right and going over the poles and circling back around. From here I can choose to go either over the other set of diagonal poles, down the center line or both or just stick to the rail…. are you confused yet?
For the more advanced horses you can change the distances of the poles on the diagonal sides to make the horse lengthen or shorten their strides as well.
I’m working on making exercises so much more complex because Cash likes to anticipate and Jack is needing stuff to keep his attention and get a bit more pep in his step. I think using something as simple as ground poles to make arena work more fun is a must! No horse, and few people (maybe not dressage people) like to go around and around in circles in the arena. And I must admit I tend to tense more in an arena then I do out on the trail so these exercises are as much for me as my horses.
During these exercises I try to get the boys to keep a steady rhythm through out the exercise and For myself I try to stay balanced and relaxed over the poles. I work on looking forward and not down at the rails as well as keeping equal pressure in the stirrups and not leaning forward over them (a nasty habit of mine).
I want the horses relaxed and listening. When I choose a direction I want them paying attention to their feet placement so they don’t step on the rails but also making sure I’m guiding them as best as possible without interfering. I want to give them their direction but I want them to figure it out the problem. Out on the cross country course or in stadium I want the boys really finding their own spots and thinking for themselves so that if I get in a mess they can get me out. But I need to guide them in the best direction and at the best speed before them. I need to set them up well so they can achieve success. I start that here with the poles. If they stumble or fumble thats alright, we reset and do it again until they learn to judge them before we get to them.
This really helps when you change the distance of the poles from say 4.5 feet to 5 feet. or from 5 ft to 4 ft.
It doesn’t take long doing this exercise to give the horses a good workout either. Poles and small cavaletti’s are great at building muscle and getting a horse to work correctly. At both Cash’s and Jacks stages I give the boys their head right now but as a horse gets more advanced you can use poles to help with collection as well. There are unlimited potential with poles!
I don’t ride the boys very long doing intense pole work lie this either. Around 20 minuets is about the max before they start getting tired and hitting poles.
Make sure to end on a positive note and have fun!
Here’s a crude diagram for the exercise. You can change all sizes to fit your arena and your horses strides.
Note: it’s not to scale and not idealy placed in the pic to represent an arena but it will give you a good idea of how it looks from above. I’d move it all further down then the diagram shows. The pic above is a better reference to where it should be placed in an arena. Again play with it for how it works best for you and your horses! (sorry I’m not the best at building these on a computer screen yet)