As a horse rider, you may find yourself spending hours schooling your horse in the same pace and tempo, primarily in trot. While this is important for training your horse to work in rhythm and strengthening their muscles, it doesn't do much to create looseness and flexibility in their hind limb joints. This is where raised pole work can come in handy.
Raised pole work excercises can be set at various heights, depending on your horse's ability. They encourage your horse to engage their hind leg and lift their forehand, ultimately teaching them how to work in self-carriage without relying on the rider's hand for support.
What equipment will you need?
If you have never introduced pole work before for your horse, start off in a safe space such as an arena, where you horse is used to working, on a calm day. Consider using a back protector if you horse is particularly spooky for a little extra confidence and protection.
When doing these excercises always opt for lightweight poles that will roll if the horse touches them. Avoid using old-style 'X' wooden cavaletti as they are heavy, awkward to move, and can cause injury to a horse if they collide with the crosspieces.
Our lightweight Starter Jump Wings
are a good option for ease of moving around and they provide you with plenty of height options as your horse gets used to pole work and you want to raise them higher for more engagement and variety.
Warm up is important
As with any new excercise, before you begin your raised pole work, be sure to warm-up your horse first. It takes time for the horse's joints to become loose, so start by walking on a loose rein for 10-20 minutes. Good hands are crucial if you are to ride in harmony with your horse. Keep your hands together, in front of the saddle, by the horse's withers, and about one fist's width apart with your thumbs on top of your fist like a roof.
If the horse is stiff, lacks straightness, or is hollow, the best pace in which to train them out of these habits is the walk. In the walk, you can teach your horse's body to respond to new motor and sensory nerves, release areas that are restricted and tight, and increase the range of joint mobility in their joints.
When schooling your horse over raised poles in canter, you should set the poles about 1-1.5 feet high. That height helps make sure that the horse takes the job seriously and focuses their brain on the approach.
Suppleness, Strength, Engagement & Variety. Sign me up!
Introducing work with raised poles into your regular schooling schedule can help to improve your horse's suppleness and strength. Also, using pole work can help to keep schooling interesting and prevent your horse from becoming stale. Once your horse is stronger and suppler, you will be able to make them straighter and work on developing collection and a more uphill self-carriage.
So, go ahead and try incorporating raised polework into your training routine and see the difference it can make for your horse's dressage. Starter Jump Wings
are a really inexpensive way to try this out at home, so pick your favourite colour and give it a go.