Q. I would like to introduce trotting poles into my lungeing sessions, but I’m not sure how to start. Can you give me any tips?
Stephanie Soskin BHS(IT) replies: Using trotting poles on the lunge is a good exercise, but always warm your horse up on the flat first.
Introduce the poles in trot, but don’t go over them every time. Making the circle smaller or larger to miss or include the poles will make the horse work harder.
Start off with four poles fanned out on a circle with the distance at the centre of the poles correct for your horse or pony (between 4-5ft). Use coloured poles if possible as the horse can see them easier than rustic poles.
The poles will encourage your horse to look down, stretch the muscles in the neck and back. This will improve the activity in his stride, help him keep an even rhythm and increase engagement behind. If working in side reins make sure they allow this stretching to take place.
To encourage more joint flexion, poles can be raised at alternate ends using jump blocks. This encourages the horse to work harder and prevents the poles from rolling out of place. Working over raised poles is strenuous and shouldn’t be over done.
Canter poles can be used if your horse is sufficiently balanced to canter on the lunge. Cantering over a single pole helps the horse negotiate a stride and multiple poles will improve rhythm. Start with a single pole and then add two more poles approx 9ft apart – you may need to adjust the distance to suit your horse.
Your can vary the distance between the poles to encourage the horse to shortern or lengthen his stride in trot and canter. Never use two poles as the horse may jump them.