As part of Zelda’s coronavirus fitness program, today I added 3 easy cavaletti exercises to my ride. Ground poles are a great way to teach your horse to use her body more correctly by improving strength and flexibility, balance, and coordination. Once your horse gets comfortable with poles on the ground, you can increase the difficulty (and the physical challenge) by raising the poles, which are called cavaletti.
There are many ways to integrate ground poles and cavaletti into your training regimes, to help both horse and rider. I’ve also used them as a way to train my eye for finding the right take off spots for jumps, without putting any stress on your horse’s joints, while still encouraging your horse to push more off their hindquarters.
But today, my goals were simple. I wanted Zelda to start thinking about where her feet are. Zelda can be a bit, well, clumsy. Not out in the hunt field, where she is very collected and balanced, but in the ring? She can get careless.
When starting with poles, it’s important to start slowly. We’ve been working over one or two poles for the past week or two, just to get her into the swing of things.
Today, I set up three exercises based on the video below: three poles in a straight line, set 3 1/2 paces apart; two poles on a fan; and a really fun exercise which you could call “pick up the sticks” — a random placement of the poles designed to make Zelda pay attention to where she walks.
One of the best benefits of pole work is that it’s designed to be self-teaching. Your job as a rider is to get your horse to come into the exercise straight (or in the case of the fan, on a circle), in a steady rhythm, and then let your horse figure it out on their own.
Do not adjust your horse through the poles. In fact, you should go through them with loose reins as one of the goals is to encourage your horse to lower her neck and use her back more effectively.
In the past I’ve used cavaletti to encourage my horses how to perfom trot lengthenings and develop the strength to hold the suspension. While my quarter horse never had a true extended trot, he made great “strides” in terms of suspension.
Zelda and I aren’t ready for such an advanced exercise yet, but earned a few treats for her efforts today.
Do you use ground poles or cavaletti? What are your favorite exercises?