7 polework exercises to keep your horse interested

  • If you’re unable to get your horse out and about at the moment, here are some polework exercises for horses used by successful riders, that should help keep your horse or pony happy and fresh in their work at home.

    Eventer Coral Keen’s key polework exercises for horses


    The diagram above demonstrates five-star eventer Coral Keen’s favourite polework exercise. Here’s why she like it:

    • It helps get the horse and rider thinking/reacting quickly
    • Helps the combination work on their transitions between trot and canter in a straight line and direct
    • It helps promote straightness through the poles and before and after them too
    • Allows you to work on distance variations between the two single poles and being able to change the gears in the canter without losing straightness
    • Pole work increases activity in the hindleg and gets the horse working through their back
    • You have to look up and plan ahead as it comes up fairly quickly
    • Shows up weaknesses that normal flatwork wouldn’t necessarily highlight

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    Eventer Kate Honey’s favourite polework exercises

    Kate, who is another five-star event rider, shares a couple of her favourite exercises using poles to improve horse and rider:

    Poles on the long side — don’t put them on a set distance but ride what you feel and then see if you can lengthen and shorten the canter stride. It is also a great one for getting a feel of counting strides and learning about your horse’s stride.

    Four poles (clock exercise) — this is a surprisingly hard exercise and gives you a real feel for if you are controlling the outside shoulder. It can be ridden in trot or canter and you can then increase the difficulty by working from the outside into the centre of the poles.

    Showjumper Scott Dollemore’s pole exercises

    Scott, who is one of showjumping yard TW Stable’s riders, shares some pole exercises for horses ranging between just broken to those six years old and over.

    Suitable for all horses, including those that are young and weak

    Use poles to work on accuracy in the arena. Just set up a single pole anywhere in the arena. Make sure you ride straight lines and make sure you ride to a specific point — usually the middle of the pole. This will help teach you horse to keep straight between the hand and leg and has the added benefit of improving their general flatwork

    Suitable for horses slightly further along in their training

    Use canter poles to work on rhythm and having an even canter stride. Place two poles on a five/six stride distance and canter through them. This will help relaxation when it comes to jumping as this will help teach your horse to keep an even stride between the two poles.

    Polework exercises for more established horses

    Increase difficulty to the second exercise by adding and removing strides down the distance. Adding and removing strides will help with collection and ride ability when it comes to then jumping in the ring. When you and your horse have mastered this, add another pole onto the line so that you have to canter over three poles with four/five strides between each distance in a straight line. This adds just another level of difficulty to the exercise and ensures that you can keep a steady rhythm between two distances. You can even up the difficultly by adding in dog legs.

    Another useful pole exercise for horses you can try is to put four poles out on a 20m circle so that you have to canter over them to ride the circle. You can make this four, five, or even six strides, depending on how big your arena is or how difficult you want to make it for your horse. This exercise will help develop your horse’s canter by making sure he is stepping under properly with the inside hind leg, helping with impulsion and ensuring your horse can keep the same canter rhythm around a corner.

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