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3 Polework Exercises to Try With Your Horse

3 Polework Exercises to Try With Your Horse

Whether you are a Dressage rider, Jumper, or a Reiner, correct polework can benefit all horses and riders. When done correctly and on a regular basis, polework increases strength, flexibility, hindquarter engagement, and gait animation. You can also use poles to develop a more consistent cadence at any gait.

Here are three pole exercises to add to your horse exercise and riding program.

Poles at the Walk

Set out six poles in a straight line. These should be placed directly on the ground if your horse is green or unused to poles. You can gradually work up to raising the poles on one side for a bit more elevation. Space the poles roughly four feet (your feet placed one in front of the other) apart. 

The walk, unlike other gaits, has no moment of suspension so stepping over the poles is done completely by the horse’s muscles. Because of this, walking poles are a great way to build strength in the core and hindquarters as well as increase flexibility in the hocks.

S-Shaped Poles at the Trot

For this exercise, you will need eight poles, at a minimum. Setup them up in an S-shape with five feet (your feet again) from the middle of one pole to the middle of the next pole. The poles will make a fan shape on each of the curved sides of the “S”.

Complete your normal warm-up routine before approaching the poles at a working trot. Encourage your horse to bend with the curves as you work through the S shape. This exercise is very challenging and you should only do it about three times in each direction initially. Once your horse builds up their endurance, you can raise the ends of the poles for more elevation.

Your horse will engage their hindquarters throughout this exercise, resulting in a more animated trot. Most horses are one-sided, meaning they are more flexible in one direction. This exercise is great for helping to increase the flexibility on their harder side.

Fan at the Canter

If you have ever watched another rider doing polework, you’ve likely seen this exercise. It is a fairly common and very useful exercise at the trot. To set up for this exercise you will need 3-4 poles, set up in a fan or clock pattern. Distance the poles about three feet from the middle of one pole to the center of the middle pole. 

This middle section is where you will focus your riding for a normal canter rhythm. After your horse is comfortable and confident at a normal canter, you can move towards the outside for an extended stride, or towards the inside for a collected canter. Continue to build stamina moving in and out along the poles before raising alternate pole ends or adding poles. 

The distance between the poles and the lengthening and shortening of the canter stride help increase the impulsion from the hindquarters and the lift in the forehand. Maintaining an even cadence requires a lot of balance from both horse and rider, which you will quickly notice if your horse tries to rush.

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