Good showjumping starts on the ground. Working regularly with poles not only gets your horse used to the sight of them, but also teaches him to relax and focus on the question ahead. As well as desensitising him, using poles helps your horse develop an even rhythm and improves straightness. This leads to a whole host of other benefits, such as muscle-building and fitness, too.
The plus side of poles
Polework gives your horse a brain and body workout that helps to…
Develop his core Poles, especially raised ones, ask your horse to lift his legs and body, meaning he has to work to engage his core. Regular sessions will help him build muscle, jump with more power and improve his technique
Make him more focused Regularly working with poles means he’ll be familiar and comfortable with them, less likely to rush and more focused on your instructions. The less he rushes, the better he’ll be able to lift his body and exercise his core, enhancing his muscle build-up
Keep schooling fun I tend to work with poles once a week, which gives my horses variety in their routine and something to enjoy, all while building on important skills
Exercise: Random poles
When I’m teaching clients, I like to use randomly placed poles to replicate a course without the pressure of height. The idea is that you can plan your course as you go. You become so focused on mapping out your course that your horse’s rhythm and take-off points sort themselves out naturally.
Set it up Place as many poles as you like around the arena in a random formation. It sounds unfocused, but there really are no hard and fast rules, except to avoid any related distances.
How to ride it Once you’ve picked up canter and ridden over your first pole, focus on choosing the next pole and guiding your horse to it so you meet it in the middle, already knowing and looking to where you need to go next. You don’t need to fold over the poles or worry about getting the perfect stride – just concentrate on getting from A to B accurately.
Pick up a copy of December Horse&Rider, on sale 17 October, for more top exercises from Anna Power.