4 poles: 7 exercises

Brilliant exercises for those with little equipment and particularly for those who are on their own. You just need to set the four poles out before you get on, then all the exercises can be ridden without changing anything. You can get a good couple of 40min schooling sessions out of these and there is something here suitable for every horse, from wobbly baby to 4* hopeful. I generally set them out so that the centre of each pole lies on a 20m circle with a pole at each of the four compass points (or 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock if you prefer!), but you can adjust the diameter according to your arena size and the level of schooling of your horse.

Exercise 1:

Exercise 1

Exercise 1

Ride a circle round the outside of the poles. This can be done in walk, trot and canter and on both reins. As with all these exercises try to ensure a consistent curve through the horse’s body and don’t be tempted to use too much inside rein. More advanced horses can also ride a circle round the inside of the poles.




Exercise 2:

Exercise 2

Exercise 2

Ride the circle round the outside of the poles, but every time you pass a pole make a small circle round it. These can start off quite large and get smaller as your horse warms up. Again try to ensure a consistent bend through the body, prevent the shoulders falling out on the smaller circles and avoid overuse of the inside rein. Try opening the inside hand a little if necessary. This can be ridden in walk and trot on both reins, and also in canter on a more advanced horse.



Exercise 3:

Exercise 3

Exercise 3

Ride a ‘clover-leaf’ pattern concentrating on keeping the horse absolutely straight on the straight sections then allowing correct bend round the turns. Try to make sure the three-quarter circles in each corner are the same size and that you have control of the horse’s quarters when returning onto the straight line. This one is quite difficult to ride correctly and isn’t suitable for cantering! Again, ride in both directions.




Exercise 4:

Exercise 4

Exercise 4

Figure of 8 with a change of leg – ride this in canter, making the loops at either end equally sized. Depending on the stage of schooling of your horse change legs in the centre either through trot, walk (simple change) or make a flying change. Try to make your change (whichever sort you choose to do) exactly over the centre and keep the horse straight in its body through the change – no swinging its head and neck to the opposite side to make sure it strikes off correctly! Again, repeat on both reins.



Exercise 5:

Exercise 5

Exercise 5

Starting flying changes: This can be used to teach horses to change legs across the centre of the school. As the horse takes off over the pole push your new inside leg forward, new outside leg back, flex its head and neck slightly to the new direction and look in the direction you wish to go. Hopefully the horse will use the pole to make a nice neat change and land on the new leading leg. This is only suitable for more advanced horses who are adjustable in the canter.


Exercise 6:

Exercise 6

Exercise 6

Ride a large oval (with nice rounded half-circle ends, not pointy ones like in the diagram!) incorporating two of the poles. You can ride this in walk, trot or canter and on both reins. You can also change and ride over the other two poles instead which will give a slightly different exercise, as unless you have an enormous arena you will be restricted by the fence and have to ride more accurate half-circles without drifting. Make sure you stay straight before and after the poles and ride smoothly round the corners without letting the shoulders fall out.


Exercise 7:

Exercise 7

Exercise 7

Ride the circle incorporating all of the poles. This is seriously tricky to do accurately. As before you need to be constantly aware of the shoulders and quarters falling in and out and you’ll find that the poles come up very quickly. There are generally 3 or 4 canter strides between poles depending on the size of horse and size of circle. Try to hit each pole exactly in the centre and get the same number of strides round each quarter of the circle. Counting out loud is helpful!



About the author

The Eventing Vet


  • I find this so useful, I often have poles out in this setup so useful in so many ways in all paces my laterally stiff TB’s suppleness improved no end doing simple turning exercises in that way!

  • Thank you what great ideas. Now tell me how to send the ice & snow away so I can work on thes, lol. Really though, thanks.

  • Can’t wait to try these. How long are the poles? It should take 40 min. For all 7 exercises?

  • Thanks for the great feedback everyone!

    Bev – these are standard SJ poles, the length doesn’t matter really, nor does the exact circle size. If the circle in the last exercise (i.e. over the centre of each pole) is roughly 20m in diameter it makes all the other exercises about right. Too small and you will make it too difficult and probably defeat the object as you will find yourself pulling the horse around with your inside rein rather than creating the correct smooth bend through neck and body. Too large and you don’t get the benefit of schooling round turns.

    Timewise you can spend as much or as little time on them as you like. Just pick one or two of the exercises and spend 10 or 20 mins on each, working in different direction and paces; alternatively progress from one to the next sequentially, moving on when you feel that you’ve got as much as you can get from that exercise that day. My point about the 40mins was that if you generally have a 40 min schooling session then there is enough variety within the 7 exercises to fill at least 2 such sessions.

  • Are the poles laid down or stood up or both? Depending on the exercise? I love seeing different exercises to do on my horse.

    • Hi Farel

      The poles are all flat on the floor not raised off the ground for the purposes of the article.

  • You can make your own poles quite cheap: use old coffee cans or big veggie cans, fill them with concrete place a 6 1/2′ PVC pipe on the center, let dry, your done. You can make 6 poles for under $20.00 that way.

  • Hi Lynda, I’m not quite sure you’re talking about the same thing here. These are jump poles lying flat on the ground. We don’t really use any poles stood on end in the UK.

  • On pole length, do recommend around 8′ roughly? Would these exercise be good to start a mare on to help get her in shape?

  • look at Auzzie eveners in UK who use these poles (fredricksons – both event @ 4* and rep world cup, olympics) their videos on training the young horse use these poles and also in a fan shape with a caveletti in the middle – worth tracking their videos down if you can as once you have seen it also used with their invention – the lunge bungie you will neve use side reins again and you don’t end up pullingypur horse round as the lungie bungie doesn’t allow this to happen, will post a photo if you can’t get either the video or their lunge bungie (dunno if its spelt right) also look up southern stars sadderly as thats their company in Auzzie who sell their saddles lunge gear etc… also they are known as ‘team fredrickson’ let me know if you want some photos, once you have seen this and one you have used it you will revolutionise your training as it did for me… enjoy

  • Hi, i just wanted to say that these exercises are really good and helpful, thank you!!!!!