The Magazine September 2019

In-hand polework

Posted 16th August 2019

Learn the tips and tricks for getting the best out of your horse in-hand, or even ridden, with Fizz Marshall’s fun polework maze

In-hand polework exercises

In-hand work can be useful for all sorts of things. However, in a rehabilitation sense, it’s most often used for horses who have sustained injuries affecting their proprioception and spatial awareness. This most commonly occurs in conditions that have a neurological element to them.

In-hand work is also very useful for occupying the mind of a horse who’s on very limited exercise. Some horses on walk work can quickly grow bored of pottering about. In this case, some polework may keep his brain switched on, and him more settled as a result. If your horse has been prescribed rest for an injury, always check with your vet first to ensure the suitability of this type of exercise before getting started.

Maze work

The concept of a maze for use in rehab is to ask your horse to move one leg at a time. By doing this, you’re breaking down his gait pattern to its most basic level and asking him to balance and control the movement of each leg in isolation. A horse would do this naturally when he’s fit and well, but he might find it difficult after an illness or when recovering from injury.

To get going with this exercise… 

  • Start by walking your horse over the poles down the centre of the maze, stepping over each pole in turn
  • Once he’s happy doing this in both directions, approach the first pole and ask him to halt
  • Ask him to move the leg that would be next according to the sequence of footfalls in walk. Do this by gently tapping him just above the fetlock of this leg with your schooling whip, while motioning him forward with your lunge line, encouraging him to step over the pole with that foot
  • You’ll probably find that he moves more than one leg to start with until he understands that he is to move one at a time. Adjust the subtlety of your forward aid to help him understand what you want

Maze in-hand polework maze set-up diagram

Find out how to use the maze polework set-up to help exercise and strengthen your horse in October Horse&Rider, on sale 22 August.

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