Exercise 1: Trot/canter/walk poles
The three poles on the outside can be used on a canter circle. Focus on keeping the same rhythm and not allowing your horse to rush or become hollow before or after the poles.
For more advanced horses, you can walk or trot half or three quarters of a circle, transition up to canter before the poles, and transition downwards to trot or walk after the poles.
If your poles are correctly lined up, you should have five poles to trot over in the centre at a fairly normal working trot. As with the canter poles, you can do this on a consistent circle without any changes of pace or you can make use of transitions before and after the poles.
Finally, you can walk the inside line with three poles in walk. Walking poles are great to help horses develop muscle because they can’t use momentum to get over the poles like they can in the higher gaits.
Exercise 2: Change the trot along the middle
If you have long poles and the overlap is big enough, you can position the fan so that you can lengthen the paces slightly more towards the outside of the centre or shorten more towards the inside of the centre.
This is great for getting your horse on the aids and helping him learn to lengthen and collect the paces while still staying active behind. If you mix it up then your horse won’t be able to anticipate your next movement!
If your overlap isn’t big enough to change the trot pace over the five poles then you can still trot the outside and the inside (i.e. the parts set up for canter and walk) but you may have to collect or lengthen to fit in two strides instead of one, for instance.
Exercise 3: Big circles and small circles
Another good exercise is to trot a large (20 to 30m) circle to the left without going over the poles, then change bend and trot a smaller (10 to 15m) circle over the five poles before changing bend again and continuing on to the larger circle once again.
This can also be ridden in the opposite direction and you can mix up the paces – e.g. you could trot a 20m circle then ride over the poles in walk or canter on a smaller circle before going back onto the 20m circle.
This exercise helps to establish correct bend through the body in the horse. The changes in bend and direction are useful to settle a hot horse as the exercise is still quite repetitive and simple.
Words by Sophie Baker
Images by Jacqueline S Wood