Starting by leading your horse in-hand over one pole on the floor in both directions (photo 1) – Allow him to stretch down, he may look or even take a sniff of the pole. He may take big steps over as he learns to think about where he is placing his feet.
Then you need to send your horse out on the lunge circle in trot, asking him to trot over the pole (photo 2). With the change in pace from walk, don’t worry if your horse overreacts to the pole and leaps over or takes dramatic steps. Just ensure that you go with him.
When first working over poles, horses often do not understand how to ‘split’ their legs and will try to operate them in pairs, effectively jumping over the trotting poles. Therefore, it is important to give them the time to figure out how to work each leg independantly – on each rein – before adding more poles. (Photo 3)
What’s more, when you change the rein horses may need to work out how to go over the pole all over again so give them some time to think it through again. Working over poles is mentally hard work. Once the horse has gone through your pole exercise three or four times, reward him with a break and move your lunge circle away from the poles. This allows the horse to stretch (photo 4) and rest.
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These distances are guidelines for training purposes. It is better to make them too long than too short and they are for normal length strides rather than shortened or lengthened ones. It is important to train your eye as distance charts are no substitute for being able to see what is actually happening.
These distances are for horses 15.2hh and over: