Gymkhana Lesson 2: Pole Bending, Washington Poles, Butterfly Poles

This lesson teaches several Gymkhana pole bending patterns.

Arena Setup:

  • 3 vertical poles down both quarterlines
  • cones across one end of the arena to designate the start/finish line

Lesson Plan

  1. Mount
  2. Tack Check
  3. Warm Up – Basic Pole Bending (See picture 1 below), weave the poles down and back. Do 1x.
  4. Gymkhana Review – while students are walking on the wall, quiz them about Gymkhana info from last week
  5. Tack Check
  6. Washington Poles – (See picture 2 below). Explain. Show a picture or use whiteboard if needed.
  7. Practice and Progression – add trot on strait stretches, take away assistance, etc. depending on the student. This was the main focus of my lesson and took the longest amount of time. Do 4x
  8. Butterfly Poles Pattern – (See picture 3 below). Explain. Show a picture or use whiteboard if needed.
  9. Practice – Follow each other for this pattern, or one at a time. I kept them to a walk because it was near the end of the lesson. Do 1x.
  10. Cool Down – walk a lap so the horses can stretch after bending so much, arm exercises for students
  11. Dismount

Example objectives for this lesson:

  • Student will demonstrate direct rein steering with the leader 3 ft away for half the lesson with no verbal prompts.
  • Student will demonstrate 2 point trotting 2x with a leader, ankle hold, and no verbal prompts.
  • Etc.


  • As shown, progress from simple Pole Bending, to Washington Poles, to Butterfly.
  • Progress from walk , to trot straight stretches, to trot whole pattern.
  • Progress from leader clipped to leader spotting.
  • Etc.


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!


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