Set out six poles in a straight line. If your horse is green, lacking strength, or not used to polework then start with them flat on the ground and aim to work up to each of the poles being raised on one side.
If you don’t have a tape measure then you can get good rough estimate for walking pole distances by using four of your feet; placing one foot directly in front of the other as if you were walking a tightrope. In metres, the distance would be 0.8-0.9 metres.
Because there is no moment of suspension in the walk, all effort to raise their feet over the poles is done via the muscles. This is an excellent way to build strength in the core and hind end, as well as make the pelvis more mobile and increase the ability to bend and engage the hocks.
Exercise 2: S-shaped poles in trot
You’ll need at least 8 poles to do this. Set them up in an S-shape. Five ‘tightrope steps’ from the middle to middle of each pole is a good guesstimate, as is one ‘big’ human step. The poles will make a fan shape on each curve of the S.
Once your horse is warmed up, trot over the poles in a nice working trot. You’ll have to guide him with your legs and seat to ensure he bends through his body as you follow the curves of the S.
If your horse isn’t used to polework, you can do this 2-3 times on each side before moving along. As he gains fitness you can do more repetitions and work towards raising the ends of the poles.
As you ride through it, you’ll quickly notice that your horse has to engage his hind end. You should have a more active and bouncy trot as a result. However, this exercise is also great at showing up and one-sidedness or lack of suppleness as your horse may struggle to switch bend and may find it harder to activate one hind leg than the other.
It is a tricky exercise, so if you struggle then don’t be disheartened. You can always ride the first half of an S shape and then ride away from the poles before circling back and doing the other half on the opposite rein, building up to doing the entire S.