‘Like taking your horse to the gym’ — how this raised pole exercise could up your horse’s game

  • Caroline Moore, former five-star eventer and British Eventing national under-18 coach and junior team coach, explains how you can use this exercise to develop your horse’s hoof/brain co-ordination

    The aims of the exercise are to improve:

    • Hoof/brain co-ordination
    • Accuracy
    • The hind leg through the transition
    • Rider posture
    • Preparation

    This is an exercise I regularly use when warming up for jumping or I teach it to a young horse to help the elevation in its work and to also improve the hoof/brain co-ordination.

    To show you this exercise, I’m using dressage boards to trot over, distanced one metre apart from each other, but you can also use raised poles. Around 10-12m away, I have an area where I’m going to ask the rider to ride a transition, so there is a lot of preparation to work on. We can use the energy created from riding over the dressage boards to help the hind leg with the walk and halt transition. We then move on to some boards out of the exercise again — this is all about the transition forward into trot and gaining balance and rhythm as early as possible to successfully negotiate the second half of the exercise.

    You can see with the first horse in the video, who is four years old, how this exercise encourages her to use her eye, and you can see that she is raising her toes just enough. This helps improve the core stomach muscles and raising the shoulder, so it’s a great exercise for a young horse — it’s like taking them to the gym.

    Then in the downwards transition, you want to get four to five good steps of walk with the horse staying relaxed — it’s important to prepare this transition as early as you possibly can. Then move forward back into the trot and this is where you really have to work at regaining the energy to ride through the second set of boards.

    This is a fairly difficult exercise but a really useful one. This exercise also shows how important it is to look where you’re going and stay in symmetry with the horse so that you stay in perfect balance, allowing the horse to soften.

    Next we will make a downwards transition to halt, so you will need to do a bit of preparation using some half halts and thinking forward into the transition. Think of riding forward from behind so that you finish the halt off square.

    Then you will ask the horse to move forward into the trot and it’s really important to get activity here. This is quite tricky to do because if they’ve halted, they often just relax a little bit, so it’s very important to ride forward here. The poles or the boards afterwards help with this because it focuses the horse on going forward.

    Points to be aware of:

    • Maintaining rhythm
    • Energy levels
    • Fatigue
    • Praise and reward

    More expert training advice from Caroline:

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

    You may like...