Whatever level you’re at, and no matter your aspirations, all riders have a shared goal: a horse with rhythmic, active paces. But if the thought of endless flatwork makes you and your horse switch off, there’s good news – cavaletti can help.
Using cavaletti will increase the flexion of your horse’s hocks, the freedom of his shoulders and the elevation of his stride, all while working his core muscles. The end result is a horse who’s lifting through his hindquarters and carrying himself better, allowing him to soften and lengthen his frame.
If you don’t own any cavaletti, you can use ordinary jump wings, as long as you remember that the point of the exercises is to keep the jumps small.
Exercise: Introducing cavaletti
Have someone on the ground to help set up the cavaletti, as you’ll need to introduce them one-by-one. Your helper will also be able to adjust the poles to suit your horse’s stride as you progress.
Set it up Introduce the cavaletti one at a time, using the recommended distance for walk 0.75-1m. Don’t feel tied to this figure. The distances can be lengthened and shortened to keep your horse comfortable.
How to do it Let his walk out as much as possible by pushing down and forward with your elbows, before picking up a contact. You want him to remain active over the poles and stretching to meet them, so don’t shorten the walk too much and risk disrupting his rhythm, causing him to hop over the cavaletti.
Progress to trot, adapting the distance between the poles – don’t be tempted to extend the distance too much, because he’ll find it difficult to propel himself over them in balance. You’re aiming for your horse to be stepping higher than usual, engaging his core muscles and his hindquarters.
Follow Ingrid Klimke’s top advice on introducing cavaletti exercises in July Horse&Rider, on sale 30 May.