- Make sure you learnt your course
- Ensure that you have enough time to warm both you and the horse up, learn a warm-up routine that works for you and the horse.
- Watch a few people in your arena before your time to analyse how the course is riding – try and pick out any fences that are causing trouble and why
- Know the time allowed for the course
- Ensure that you and the horse are in the correct dress – check the rule book
- If you are jumping on grass ensure that you put in studs for your horse
- Trot around the arena to allow yourself and your horse to take in the atmosphere, take your time.
- Wait for the bell!
- Ask someone to video your round so that you can look back, analyse and learn from the experience.
- Stay relaxed, focused and enjoy it.
One Pole Exercise
A pole on the ground is a simple but effective exercise to set up and ride. Especially if you are riding alone and want to spice up your flatwork.
Set up – Place the pole down anywhere in arena or field and start by walking over the pole. You can then build this up to trotting over the pole and then cantering. This exercise is great because it can also be ridden both ways in any gait.
Once in canter you can start to work on developing you eye for the distance as well as improving the rhythm of the canter. Continue to cancer repeatedly over the pole working on keeping the same balance before over and away from the pole. Counting out loud 1 – 2 – 3 – jump – 1 – 2 – 3 will also aid in keeping the same tempo.
Trot Poles Exercise
Trotting poles can bring some variety to a schooling session. They also help to aid the riders balance and feel whilst helping to strengthen both the horse and rider.
Set up – place 3 or more poles on the ground to form a grid. Distances slightly vary on the size of your horse from a minimum of 4ft (1 1/3 paces) to a maximum of 5ft6 (2 paces), always ensure that the distance is comfortable in a working trot. This exercise can be ridden on both reins. Trotting is a two beat rhythm as the horses legs move in diagonal pairs.
To make this exercise more complex you could use cavalettis and raise the poles off the ground. It is important to keep the same rhythm throughout the poles and allow the horse to keep active through the exercise.
Canter Poles Exercise
Canter poles can help work the canter to ensure balance, relaxation and submission. This exercise is fun, easy to set up and can be ridden on both reins which is advised to ensure that the canter is worked equally.
Set up – place 3 or more poles on the ground set at a minimum of 9ft (3 paces) and a maximum of 11ft (3 2/3 paces) depending on the size of the horse, the level of education of the horse and the riders’ ability to ensure the canter stays balanced.
Pick up your canter away from the poles and only approach the poles once you are in a good rhythm and balance before, during and after the poles. Count out loud to help with this as you go through the grid 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Canter is a three-beat rhythm with a moment of suspension after each stride.
On the right lead canter the first beat is left hind leg, the second beat is right hind and left fore and the third beat is right fore leg. On the left lead canter the first beat is the right hind leg, followed by the left hind and right fore and then the third beat is the left fore leg.
Two Pole Exercise
One of the most valuable and instrumental when riding a fence in show jumping or cross country. This exercise can help improved the riders eye when seeing a stride, improve adjustability in the canter and help your horse’s responsiveness.
Set up – place two poles on the ground at any distance apart. This doesn’t need to be a set distance but somewhere around 4 – 8 strides.
Come down over the poles in your working balanced canter counting the strides between the two poles. Keeping the same rhythm, riding middle pole to middle pole. Until you ride the same amount of stride each time between poles. Once you have established this in your working canter then try and add strides and remove strides by shortening and lengthening the canter.
Ride a collected canter to add two strides then ride an extended canter to remove two strides.
Poles on a curve Exercise
This is a key exercise for improving both the horse and riders’ rhythm, balance and suppleness. This exercise can also be used whilst lunging a horse.
Set up – place four poles on the curve / circle set at three yards apart. (This exercise can be ridden in trot or canter) These need to be set up so the inside of each pole is closer together and the outside of each pole is further apart, the middle distance will be the same. You can ride this exercise on both reins to ensure
Start by cantering on a circle, without the poles. Then ride through the middle of the poles keeping the same rhythm. To practice your collected canter ride towards the inside of the poles where they are closer together and to practice a medium canter ride towards the outside of the poles that are further apart.
Raising the poles off the floor and adding more poles can further this exercise for a more established horse.
This exercise encourages straightness and flexibility though bending and turning and therefore aids stiffness of the horse.
Set up – form a ‘V’ type zigzag in a straight-line. The distance from each pole should be about 2.6 meters. Having the poles placed in this format means that there are several exercises that you can try.
Start by riding half circles over the poles. You can also use this exercise to practice riding serpentines by riding over the ‘V’ part of the poles and straightness by riding down through the middle of the poles. Changing the direction and angles can help aid the suppleness of the horse and rider.