Ground Pole Exercises

Here are four good ground pole exercises to help create a solid foundation in your riders. They are from the Certified Horsemanship Association’s Monthly EBlast from a year or so ago – click on the link to subscribe! The author was Jennifer Wiley a CHA Certified Master Instructor and Clinic Staff. I rewrote/simplified/clarified the exercises in my own words. Enjoy!

Learn Where The Horse’s Feet Are, Over Poles

Why

  • to control his movements
  • to get correct posting diagonals and  canter leads
  • to open gates, back straight, side-pass, pivot, trail ride

How to learn where the horse’s feet are

  • is learned by practicing (such as with this exercise)
  • is also learned as you go – the more you ride the more you get a “feel” for where the horse’s feet are

Set up

  • 2 poles about 12 feet apart

Activity

  • walk over the poles
  • when the horse picks up the first foot to go over the pole, the rider says “pole”
  • progress to saying “right” or “left” depending on which foot goes over first
  • progress to asking them to say “pole” when a specific foot you chose goes over the pole
  • if they have a hard time with this, use a leader and have the rider shut their eyes as the horse steps over the poles, so they must rely on their other senses more

Skills to practice may include:

  • leg aids for walk on, continue walking, or step over
  • seat aids for maintaining rhythm
  • steering for maintaining straightness

Speed Control, Between Poles

Why

  • helps develop feel for speed, rein contact, horse’s responses to cues
  • refines the horse’s response to cues

Set Up

  • 2 poles about twelve feet apart

Activity

  • students ride over the poles and count the steps between each at a normal speed
  • next students ride over the poles and try to get as many steps between them as possible, which is done by slowing the horse down
  • progress to a trot
  • progress to having the riders quicken/lengthen the stride, getting as few steps between the poles as possible, done by extending the horse’s stride

Skills to practice may include:

Ride Between The Lines, Between Poles

Why

  • rider learns how small the horse’s feet are and how narrow a space the horse can walk between
  • rider gains greater control over horse, especially helpful for those who like to cut corners
  • practices rider’s feel of the horse and where he is

Set Up

  • 2 poles about 10 feet apart

Activity

  • students ride between the poles
  • after one pass, space the poles closer together, and have them ride through again
  • repeat until the poles are just over 1 foot apart

Skills to practice may include:

  • leg aids for walk on and continue walking
  • seat aids for maintaining rhythm
  • steering and leg aids for maintaining straightness, small leg yields
  • slowing down, before the poles to improve control while directing the horse between

Turns, Between Poles

Why

  • student has a solid foundation and is ready to progress
  • additionally, a good exercise when you have limited use of the arena, since you are just going back and forth across the same line!

Set Up

  • 4 poles per rider: set 2 pole about 10 feet apart perpendicular to the arena, on each side, per rider (essentially creating two “parking spots” or “U-turn spots” against the arena wall, on opposite sides, directly across from each other)

Activity

  • ride from one wall of the arena to the other, aiming between the poles
  • when you reach the arena wall and are between the poles, turn around, and head back the other way
  • make sure to alternate which direction you turn to practice both sides – this is easiest done by always turning toward the same ends of the arena
  • Progress: pivot inside the poles
  • Progress: rollback inside the poles (for example, from the lope, switching leads each cross of the arena)

Skills to practice may include:

  • leg aids for walk on, continue walking, maintain straightness
  • seat aids for maintaining rhythm and straightness
  • rein aids for maintaining straightness
  • all the aids for turning, or pivot, or roll back

Have you ever used these or similar exercises? How did you like them?

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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! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!

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