Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trot Poles And Such

The poles you put on the ground and make your horse work over go by many different names: trot poles, ground poles, cavaletti, torture devices.  I have no idea why.  I suspect it is like everything else in the horse world and just a case of regional vernacular.  Or perhaps those words mean different things and I'm just ignorant of the subtleties.  It doesn't really matter I suppose, I use all those words interchangeably to mean "things you stick on the ground and ride or lunge your horse over".

That's what we did yesterday, trotted over poles.  I've been wanting to do some conditioning work for awhile.  My pastures are still muddy, and I'm tired of basic arena work.  Spider is forward, he is round, he leg yields, renvers, travers, shoulder ins, shoulder fores and does a mean turn on the forehand.  We are bored with that.  But, I don't really feel that he's working consistently enough to start training something new.  I am beginning to feel uninspired. 

So, I got out the trot poles.  Actually, they're landscape timbers.  You can use anything as cavaletti.  I happened to have some landscape timbers laying around, and so they got used.  One of these days I'll get around to painting them white.  Maybe.

I like to lay my cavaletti out in a half circle.  That way, the distance between the poles is varied.  You can choose your spacing without getting off the horse and adjusting, very handy for those who ride alone.  You'd think that after nearly 5 years of riding the same horse I would have the spacing figured out, but no.  I like the variability of the half circle, anyway.

I set them up so that the narrowest distance is 50 inches and the widest is 100 inches.  It just so happens that my booted foot is 10 inches long.  I use that as my measuring device, hence the rather odd, arbitrary seeming distances.  It works well, though.  I let Spider go over on a loose rein a few times to find his "sweet spot", then we go from there.   At the end, I had Spider go over the narrow end to encourage him to lift his legs higher, sit down and collect.  Difficult work, but he handled it well.  Next time I'll probably lift the poles off the ground a few inches with blocks to encourage even more engagement.

Today we worked on canter, mostly transitions between trot and canter and shoulder fore.  I'm trying to develop balance and collection to help with counter cantering and simple changes.  It went well, but the canter is not quite ready for more difficult work yet.  Patience is a virtue.  As Podhajsky says: "I have time"....


  1. Trot poles do wonders for horses, I think.

  2. Oh clever about setting the poles in half circles so you can change teh spacing without dismounting. HAHAHA!

    I have always got them in a straight line, I guess our poles work was laways teh prelude to jumping.

    Good idea. I am with you about flatwork. I get bored after a while (short while) We are off hacking this week ^-^

  3. It's amazing how something as simple at trot poles can totally mix up an otherwise normal flatwork day and re-engage the horse's interest. And mine.

    Hooray Spider!

  4. Good going. Trot poles always add to a session. I like to set up a jump now and then too in order to add adventure.


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