Similar to doing yoga or Pilates, cavaletti are a fantastic gymnastic exercise for building your horse’s strength and suppleness. This, in turn, helps improve his rhythm and regularity, as he starts to carry more weight behind. With the cardiovascular benefits it brings to your training, it’d probably be better likened to a Pilates-meets-circuit-training session so, before you know it, you’ll have built the ultimate, full-body workout by just getting out some poles.
Aside from fitness perks, introducing cavaletti to the arena will make your horse’s routine more varied, regardless of whether you simply school him, or compete in dressage, showjumping or eventing. So, if you’re hoping to improve your horse’s paces and are bored of the same exercises every session, breathe some new life into your schooling and take your training to the next level.
Exercise: On a circle
By asking your horse to work over cavaletti on a circle, you’ll encourage him to bend through his whole body as he develops a consistent rhythm.
Set it up Place the four cavaletti on a circle at one end of your arena, at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock position. They should each be 10.8–13.6m apart – this should fit four canter strides.
How to do it Take your horse onto a circle, asking him to canter over just the 12 and 6 o’clock cavaletti to start with. Look around your turn and aim for the middle of each pole, with your outside leg behind the girth and inside leg on the girth to encourage a consistent bend. Count your strides aloud if it helps.
Add in the 3 and 9 o’clock sets, keeping your circle round.
This might be challenging for your horse so don’t worry if he doesn’t get it right first time. If you find that he’s struggling, keep the cavaletti low so he can trot them, until he understands the exercise and is carrying it out in an even pace. Then, return to canter.
Feel the benefit Riding over cavaletti on a circle is beneficial for training your horse to take weight on his inside hindleg. When he steps in and underneath in this way, he can lift his shoulders, which in turn improves his balance. It’ll also encourage him to engage his core and activate his hindquarters as he has to step up and over the poles.
For more cavaletti exercises that will help to strengthen your horse, pick up a copy of August Horse&Rider, on sale 27 June.