Why didn’t I do this sooner! As I was driving up to the stables for my lesson recently, I had this sudden urge… I fancied adding some pole work into our schooling! It was a chance to change things up a bit and what a difference it made. Not only was it really fun but it was also tricky enough to keep Hamish’s brain engaged and give him a physical challenge too.
Poles are a simple but super effective addition to our schooling routine. Not only do they give a bit of variety, for both horse and rider, but they also have huge benefits for our flat work too. The poles help Hamish to be rhythmical and balanced, whilst encouraging engagement from the hind end. For Hamish, we used three different exercises, eventually joining them all together at the end.
Standard Trot Poles on Long Side
We had 4 normal trot poles just off of the track on the ‘B’ long side. First they were just normal trot poles on the ground which we went over a few times, to work out the distance. It’s really helpful having someone on the ground when you first set things up to make sure you have got the distances correct. Hamish ended up with tiny little pony strides, which were literally just one of my strides between each pole!
When he got the hang of this we raised them slightly with blocks and then again, raised them once more. At first when they were raised, I think Hammy considered jumping them, until he realised how close they all were but he soon got the hang of it and went beautifully.
I am calling this a fan, I think that’s the right term but if not, I’m sure you know what I mean. We had three poles by C, slightly off of the track. They were in a fan shape, meaning we came around them almost like a half circle, with a little bit of bend.
We just used the mid part of the fan initially, getting him to work over them straight and with a slight inside bend. We practised on both reins and he felt really confident working through this. When we try this next time, we could use both the inner and outer sides of the fan, to shorten and lengthen his stride to make it a bit more tricky.
Centre Line Pole
We placed a pole vertical so it ran straight down the centre line and was at the centre part of a 20m circle at the A end of the school. We used this pole when on a 20m circle and also used it is a direct turn to change the rein.
Finally, once we have been over everything and worked on each exercise individually we linked them altogether. By the end I felt a huge difference in Hammy’s way of going. He was forwards, really pushing from behind and the trot felt balanced, rhythmical and elevated. As he is getting a little older (don’t tell him I said that) this is defiantly something I would like to use to mix up our schooling to keep him active, supple and mentally engaged too.
Do you have any pole work tips for me to try? What pole work exercises do you love?