The use of polework in a horse and rider’s education is great way of developing rhythm, balance, impulsion and adding variety into the horse’s work. It’s always great working with Line, as we come from different disciplines, but fundamentally our training objectives and how we want the horse to work and use themselves is similar.
Text: Kieran Treacy
The Arabian horses are not known for their extravagant movement and can have busy brains, so therefore I like using trotting poles and raised poles to help them maintain impulsion, rhythm and increase the amount the horse uses itself by increasing the joint flexion and developing the muscles. The horse should comfortably complete the poles flat on the ground first without rushing or losing energy. The better rider should try to hold the trot between hand and leg to really feel the moment of suspension, so you can feel the horse lift over every single pole. Set the distance of the poles at around 1.4m (4 ½ feet). This can then be adjusted bigger or smaller till you find a distance that suits your horse.
The poles can be raised on alternative ends or on both ends. I like alternative ends, as it encourages the rider to keep the horse straight through the middle. The poles can be raised from 10-20cm of the ground. For added variety you can put the poles on a curve, this helps with the horse’s suppleness and allows you to play around with the distance shortening and lengthen the stride on the curve. When your horse becomes very comfortable and established over poles you can make it more challenging by creating more of a greater curve and adding more poles.
We also worked on some canter poles and slightly raised some the poles so the dressage horse had to use himself in a different manner. Usually we are asking the horse to collect by sitting on his hindquarters; with raising every second pole you are still asking for this collection. However, added power and engagement of the hindquarters is needed, so the horse can clear the pole or little jump.
The poles are set at around 2.7-3m(9-10ft) this can be changed to suit the horse. In this instance with Line we decreased the distance a little, as this horse was able to maintain a collected canter and when the distances were a little bigger it encouraged the horse to rush, lose balance and complete the exercise with speed rather than power and engagement. I like this canter pole exercise, as it takes realistic elements from a jumping course and teaches the horse and rider to think and react quicker. Dealing with elements such as turning over a fence, dogs leg and jumping fences off turns, all whilst looking and keeping your horse balanced and in a rhythm. For the dressage horse it develops their education and adds some variety and more ride-ability into training routine.