Be a polework pro

Posted in Flatwork Jumping

Spice up your schooling sessions with these fun pole exercises

Polework exercises

Polework has huge benefits for your pony. Not only can it help improve his straightness and suppleness, but his core strength and balance, too. However, there’s lots more you can do than a simple line of trotting poles. These fab formations will allow you to incorporate loads of super-fun polework exercises into your schooling.

Diamonds pole layout

This pole layout is perfect for helping you test your fave pony’s straightness, and accuracy on turns and circles. Plus, it’ll help encourage him to bend.

Diamond pole layout exercises

You will need…

Twelve poles of equal length for the full layout or eight poles to create a smaller layout of two diamonds.

The set up

The full layout is made from three diamonds. Use four poles to create a diamond at X, then add another diamond on either side along the centre line.

Exercise 1: Transitions

Transitions are a great way to get your pony listening to you, as well as helping you with your accuracy. 

How to ride it… Approach one of the poles in trot. Once your pony steps into the diamond, ask for a transition to walk, then walk across the diamond. As your pony steps over the next pole, ask for trot again.

Exercise 2: Ace the centre line 

Being able to ride a straight centre line is super-important because you’ll be able to pick up a few extra marks in a dressage test, but it can be tricky to master.

Riding teh diamond polework exercise to improve straightness

How to ride it… Turn down the centre line in walk or trot and ride towards the centre of the pole pattern, using the points of the diamonds as markers to help you stay straight. Once you’ve mastered the centre line, you can make the exercise more tricky by riding along the outside edge of the three diamonds. 

Top tip If you’re not straight on the approach, your pony will find the striding difficult.

Exercise 3: About turn

This exercise is great for helping your pony stay balanced on a turn.

Using the diamond pole layout to help keep turns balanced

How to ride it… Ask your pony for a forward trot and ride a circle at C. Make sure part of your circle goes over the top of the first diamond – you should get two or three strides through the diamond. Try to maintain your rhythm as you trot over the poles.

Top tip Always make sure you ride each exercise equally on both reins to help your pony build up muscle evenly.

The snake

If you don’t have lots of poles, this layout is perfect.

Snake polework layout

You will need…

Four poles. 

The set up

Lay the poles across the centre line so they form a zig-zag shape.

Exercise 1: Feeling loopy

This exercise is great for balance and accuracy.

How to ride it… Trot over the centre of the first pole, approaching from the left rein. Then ride a 10m circle left and ride over the second pole. Then circle to the right and trot over the third pole. Ride a final circle to the left to trot over the fourth pole. 

Exercise 2: Zig-zag lines

This exercise is a true test of straightness and accuracy.

Using snake pole layout to help keep straight

How to ride it… Start in walk to help you plan your route, and ride through the centre of the poles. Once you feel confident you can keep your pony straight, try the exercise in trot on both reins.

The spiderweb

Although it looks a bit complicated, this layout is fantastic for helping you test your accuracy and straightness, as well as encouraging your pony to listen to you. There’s lots of ways you can use this layout, but here are three exercises to get you started.

Spider web pole layout

You will need…

Create the full layout with 14 poles or you can just put together one side of the layout using seven poles.

The set up

Place two poles end to end either side of the centre line to create a channel that’s 1.2m wide. Use two poles to create a triangle with each of the poles that have created the channel. Finally, lay a pole between the points of the two triangles.

Exercise 1: Straight and narrow

Being able to ride a straight line is vital to ensure you get a good approach to a fence when riding a course.

How to ride it… In trot, turn across the middle of the school and ride over the middle triangle, making sure you ride across the points in the centre of the layout. 

Exercise 2: Stop and go

Making sure your pony will stop when and where you ask him is super-important. Your aim is to halt next to the points of the triangles in the middle.

How to ride it…. Trot through the channel in the middle of the layout. Prepare for your halt by sitting tall, then ask for the transition in the middle of the pole pattern. Ask your pony to stand for a few seconds, then squeeze him forwards into trot again. Ride through the exercise a few times and try to reduce the number of walk strides each time as you transition into and out of halt.

Exercise 3: Around and around

This exercise will help you ride a smooth, balanced circle and encourage your pony to have a more expressive trot.

Using the spiderweb pole layout to improve circles

How to ride it… Using the ends of the layout, ride a circle at A – part of your circle will be ridden through the poles. Make sure your pony is trotting with a regular rhythm and is moving forwards. Remember to think about your turn through the poles – it should be nice and smooth.

It’s playtime!

There are lots of other exercises you can ride through these pole set ups, too. So, why not try these exercises to get you started, then come up with your own patterns – the possibilities are endless.

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