February Exercise #2 – “Keep ’em Straight”

Man is it nice to be back doing these exercises! Have to say, I was getting pretty envious of Darielle having all the fun in January so I was delighted to be back on board to give some a go myself.

To get back into the swing of things I decided to start with something relatively easy. Although I know a few of you looking at the layout probably think this is a bit too easy but keep reading because this one has a twist. This also follows on well from last week’s exercise so check it out and give it a go!


WHAT IS THIS EXERCISE GOOD FOR?

  • Seeing a stride
  • Improving straightness to a fence
  • Making your horse listen

HOW TO SET IT UP?

Very simply, you just need 3 poles, set up on the diagonal with two strides between each pole. I counted 8 large steps between each to get my two strides.

I would also recommend clearing any wings or poles from the arena as you’re going to need space to move around and between the poles.

HOW TO RIDE IT

To start, the one thing you’re not going to do is the obvious. You’re not going to ride down these poles on the diagonal. I mean, you can if you really want to, but that’s not what this exercise is.

There’s a few different ways you can come at these poles. I started by incorporating them into my circle work in the canter.

  1. I started over one pole at a time, doing each pole a handful of times before moving across to the next one.
  2. I would then gradually expand the circle to cover two poles.
  3. Once we did both well I would move from doing one pole to two poles at a time so the exercise wouldn’t get too repetitive.
  4. This really helped in getting Coco settled and listening to my aids instead of just trying to bomb off.

Next, I moved on to something slightly trickier which really threw Coco the first time we tried it. Younger horses will most likely find this exercise more difficult than older horses who may have faced lines like these on a cross country course.

  1. As per the layout below, canter down the poles at an angle, aiming for a point just off the centre of each pole.
  2. To ride this well you really need to hold a consistent and even contact while supporting your horse’s body by wrapping your legs around them keeping continuous leg pressure to stop their hind end from drifting.
  3. Move clock-wise over each pole, working your way into the pole in the middle.
  4. When you hit the middle pole you can ask for a lead change and repeat the exercise in the opposite direction
Keep ’em straight…

Coco definitely thought I lost it when I tried this the first time. As we approached the first pole she started panicking thinking we weren’t supposed to go over the pole this way but with the consistent leg she kept going and gave a little leap over the pole. Once she got to grips with what I was asking her to do she really seemed to enjoy herself.

MIX IT UP

To finish off, I decided to really test how well Coco was listening by mixing up and combining the different variations of approaching the poles. It was brilliant to compare how she started with how she finished up. I definitely had a much more chilled horse who was happy to wait for my instruction instead of one who sees a pole and takes off!


And there you have my very simple yet effective exercise that keeps your horse’s brain switched on and waiting for your next move. Coco is one of the most distracted horses I’ve ever ridden so I live for exercises that keep her mind busy and this did just the trick.

Give it a go and as always make sure to let us know how you get on by sharing your videos and tagging us on Instagram 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Orla

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