Mixing and matching your training


When cantering, ensure you’re on the correct lead.


By Jenny Richardson BHSAI

To produce a strong partnership between horse and rider, there are many exercises to help with obedience and balance. Groundwork is the foundation for all good competition horses at any level, and in any discipline. Pole work plays an important part of your production of the horse, and should be practised regularly. New ideas and different exercises keeps interest up for both parties and the prospects of new challenges can help raise your game!

Why not mix and match?

Here’s a nice exercise to try. Once good trot and canter pole work is well established, set out three canter poles down the three quarter line of one arena side, approximately three metres apart (different horses will vary, and it should be specific for your horse – having someone on the ground to make alterations will help). Across the diagonal, from F to H as per the diagram, arrange three to five trot poles, approximately one metre apart. On the opposite three quarter line, set up a small fence or cross pole centrally, with a placing pole either side, in order that it can be jumped in both directions. Lastly, a second obstacle should be diagonally set from K to M.


Warm up using your trotting poles – you can also trot through the canter poles, getting the horse used to the set up, and loosening up his muscles. Move on to some canter work incorporating the canter poles, then separately play over the two small jumps – you are now ready to start with the mix and match exercise!

The foundation of this exercise is to canter over the canter poles, trot at A, change the rein from F to H over the trotting poles, pick up canter between C and H, and proceed over the obstacle at B.
Maintain canter, and change the rein from K to M over the other jump and at C trot. Your goals are to be accurate in the transitions and to maintain straightness, have an even rhythm throughout and when cantering, be on the correct lead. Many horses tend to change canter leads over canter poles or jumps as they lose balance and fall out or in. If you can master this exercise, it will help you ride a more calculated show jumping round, and it will also help your horse’s flatwork, if you have dressage tests in mind.

A tailored exercise

This exercise can be tailored to your specific needs or problems. A horse which rushes after a fence should perhaps be asked to come in trot over the fence at B, and if he canters away, bring him back to trot at C, and change the rein from H to F over the trotting poles. If your horse is the opposite and rushes towards a fence, the first thing to do is master the canter poles without rushing, then apply this technique to the obstacle at B, as the placing pole coming in and out is likely to back him off, and make him think. You could also trot your small jump on the diagonal, from K to M.
Change this simple course to suit your needs; ride it from both directions and don’t be afraid to mix and match any order of the tasks.

If you want to hone your pole-work, consider a training break at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, where Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager. This venue offers luxurious equestrian riding holidays and training breaks in the heart of Ireland. Visit www.castleleslie.com

Author: Features Editor

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