20-minute weekly workout: rider focus

  • This week’s 20-minute workout is designed to help riders focus. The ability to look ahead and plan is a key skill for any rider, across all disciplines. This instills confidence in the horse, which can help minimise potential problems.

    This week we are using poles on a circle to develop rhythm in trot and canter. This encourages your horse to listen to you and trust you. Ultimately, this will help with accuracy questions when going cross-country — if you are in the right place for approaching a fence it won’t be a problem.

    The exercise:

    This exercise is based on four poles placed at each of the four quarter points on a 20m circle (see diagram). The rider should aim for the middle of each pole. This is easier said then done.

    You must look ahead and plan your route, so that as you are riding over one pole, you are simultaneously setting yourself up to approach the next one correctly.

    By looking at the next pole while going over one, you are automatically placing your horse correctly for the next.


    This exercise can be done in any size arena. The usual size for a circle is 20m in diameter, which works for most horses in trot or canter

    What can go wrong?

    At first, a sharp or young horse may make a meal of the poles — jumping, spooking and losing concentration. Here you must keep calm and re-establish the rhythm.

    You must not leave the circle or give up. You must work through the problem while continuing to ride to the middle of each pole.

    If necessary, make a transition down to trot or walk — but don’t abandon the exercise.


    Once the rhythm is established, you can make a transition up or down after every second pole (every half-circle). This discourages you from slowing down to do a transition — instead encouraging you to ride forward through the transition.

    The exercise can be ridden in canter as well as trot. Expect the move into canter to echo any initial problems that were encountered in trot.

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