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Ponderings of an Equestrian Professional

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Why I love raising poles.

Ground poles are great for developing rhythm in trot and canter, this is something most of us know from our early riding experience. Instructors use poles when we are teaching jumping to help develop the riders balance in the saddle independent of the reins. For many riders the very first obstacles they "jump" over would be closer to raised poles than a jump, but we all have to start somewhere.

My love for using raised poles comes not from jump training but from coaching dressage. I had a client with a lovely horse that had, in the past, been described as an "earthbound cob". It was true, she was always likely to tip onto her forehand and tank around the arena.

A pole work session was requested, so I set out trot poles as I usually would, and the horse took charge & barged over them. It was close to being dangerous & I needed to make some serious changes.

I set out 3 poles on a walk stride distance. If you can find this distance in a book please let me know, I struggled & have worked out the best striding, which varies depending on the horses natural stride. The horse spotted the poles & tanked towards them in trot. When she got to the poles the distance stopped her & the rider was able to slow her to walk to go over them. That was part of what I had hoped for, but she was still on her forehand.

I got out my polepods and lifted the poles 4 inches off the ground. I had the rider trot towards the poles, make a transition to walk, walk over the poles & trot away. After several frustrating minutes which involved poles rolling off the pods a lot, the mare suddenly stepped under with her hind legs, really lifting her shoulders & stepped through leaving all the poles up.

This exercise has become a firm favourite with me, particularly with horses who lean on the riders rein contact & try to tank off.

There are lots of ways to lift the poles, I know many people use potties, but I much prefer the polepods from, not least because they stack together really well, making them easy to transport from yard to yard.

I'm looking forward to starting my "We Have Lift Off" package where I will be using polepods to help build the confidence of both horses and riders to help them get back to jumping.

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