Polework is for everyone!! If you ride a horse...you can benefit from correctly performed polework.
When done regularly, polework can increase your horse's strength and flexibility, improve their ability to engage the hindquarters and make their paces more expressive and cadenced.
It also can increase the variety of their school work and give both bored and hot horses something to focus on.
Below are a few exercises which I will continue to add to and change over the coming weeks. Remember to always build up slowly when it comes to polework. Even walking poles can be strenuous and though your horse may not seem to be puffing, their muscles might be feeling the strain.
Thanks to the kind permissions for use of the images.
This is one of my favourite exercises!! It only needs four poles...there are no tricky distances to worry about and if you're on your own and your horse knocks the pole a bit...it really doesnt matter!! It works on straightness and bend as well as asking the horse to lift over the poles...it can be done in walk, trot or canter...but as with all exercises... focus on riding it accurately at a slower pace before you move up the gears!
Start by setting this up in the middle of your school.. ride in a straight line towards one of the poles then after a few strides at least equal to the length of your poles...circle away to the outside before riding a stright line to the next one...and so on riding round over each one....focus on yours and your horses straightness and bend as you move from straight lines to circles...get a friend to video you from different angles so you can see what you and your horse are doing.
This exercise is a slight twist on a conventional poles in a line exercise as it allows you to work on bend as well as straightness.
Set it up in the middle of your arena so that you can approach either the straight or curved poles easily. Set the 4 poles out at a comfortable working distance for your horse in trot ...(this will be roughly 5 of your feet... toe to heel... for an average 15hh horse but less for ponies (try 4-4.5) and more for longer striding horses).
Concentrate on holding the line you are riding...not letting your horse drift off it...think about your straightness and position too and get a friend to video you from different angles.
This exercise is another one that benefits from not having to work distances out too much or matter if your horse knocks it slightly when you are riding...
Set the poles up in the middle of your arena so that you can approach easily from all angles and that your horse can negotiate the distances between them comfortably.
Again, this exercise can be ridden in walk, trot or canter but establish correctness in each pace before moving up to the next.
Focus on rhythm and balance in the pace you are working in and on getting your horse to stay exactly on the line you are riding.
Think about the correctness of your own position and get a friend to video you from a number of angles too.
This is an absolutely brilliant layout as it enables you to work on so many things!! Set it up in your school so that you can approach the poles easily from all angles.
A - is a 2 loop serpentine...focus on riding the shape properly ...so proper half circles linked by straight lines...no slanty lines or square ends!! Keep the rhythm and activity in the pace all the way through...watch your upper body position too!
B-This works on straightness and holding a line between obstacles on an angle...good for all you eventers!!
C - Bit of bending!! This tests and improves the effectiveness of your outside aids...make sure you are using them and not your inside rein to turn. Make sure you have this one nailed before moving onto...
D - Is a harder version of C...turns are more acute!
Start in walk and build up to trot once you are confident. Think about your position throughout and get a friend to video you if you can.
This exercise is a development of a single set of trotting poles...it's really good for establishing and improving rhythm in trot...keep coming round over the different sets...maintaining the rhythm in between too...so that means concentrating on your turns and changes of rein and not losing rhythm or impulsion through them...try and give yourself plenty of room around the poles when you set the exercise up... Set the distances up so they are at a comfortable working trot distance for your horse (this will be roughly 5 of your feet (toe to heel) for a 15hh horse...less (4/4.5) for a pony and more for a larger horse)
Concentrate on straightness too...pick a line over your poles and stick to it!
Poles can be raised too to create more lift in the trot.