Improve Your Skills This Week
Every rider knows that flatwork improves your bond with the horse by making him more responsive to the aids, which is crucial in every discipline. Furthermore, certain flatwork routines can help the horse gain balance, impulsion, and straightness whilst making him more supple. By adding poles to your flatwork and turning it into polework, you can develop your horse’s core stability, his top line and suppleness by encouraging him to step under with the hindleg.
Walk, trot and canter poles influence your horse’s strides. It’s an amazing exercise for horses that tend to rush. You can adjust the distance between the poles gradually to work on your extended and collected gaits.
Here is an example that you can try this week:
Set out a fan of 4 - 6 poles on a 20m circle with the poles spaced out at a distance of 4 foot 6 inches (see the diagram below).
Imagine that you have 3 different tracks going through the poles – inside, middle and outside. The inside track requires shorter strides because the distance between the poles is shorter, the middle track should be the natural stride length for your horse and the outside track should encourage slightly longer extended strides. This will help you to increase and decrease the horse’s stride length while keeping him supple on the circle.
When asking for shorter strides, gently half-halt to collect the horse, but keep your leg on to maintain impulsion. To ask for longer strides, gently put your leg on and rise taller in the saddle, keeping a softer contact on the horse’s mouth.
Gridwork exercises help both the horse and the rider improve their techniques in multiple ways. For riders, gridwork can be used to help with the jumping position and straitness. For horses, it helps with problems, such as horses who rush, horses that frequently knock poles down, and horses that lack confidence or are just starting to learn how to use their body to overcome different obstacles.
In addition to its technical benefits, gridwork can be fun and challenging for the horse’s brain. You can use your imagination and help from your trainer to set up limitless gridwork courses to entertain and train your horse simultaneously. They can be a great way to strengthen your bond with the horse while training his body and mind.
Based on your horse’s level, you can set up the exercise as simple or as complicated as needed. The example that we share in this blog can be great for every level, just adjust the height for your level!
Placing poles in front of the first cross pole and between each jump will help encourage a good stride into and through the grid.
Think about sitting up between each fence and keeping a good rhythm throughout the grid. Do not get ahead of your horse, especially if he tends to rush.
Start with the jumps as poles on the floor and introduce each element one at a time and keep as straight as possible.
If you are a jumper or eventer, you must already enjoy jumping with your horse. But, even dressage horses can benefit from some simple jumping exercises with low as these exercises can be vital in helping your horse improve their strength, agility and balance, requiring precision and control.
Without further ado, here is the sample exercise for this week:
Introduce each fence unhurriedly and keep the fences small because the exercise is about gymnastics, not height
A strong canter with a consistent rhythm is essential so that your horse has enough power and balance
Take frequent breaks as it can be both physically and mentally tiring for your horse