This set of exercises works well in a 20×40 arena, allows you to set out one line of poles at the start of the session and not have to change them, and can be ridden over in all paces – perfect for dark schooling nights. As always, you may have to tweak the distances for your horse. An easy way to remember how many steps with the front feet you want between each pole is 3-2-1 (the numbers go down as the pace increases). The poles are 9ft/2.75m/3 paces apart.
Exercise 1: Walk
During your warmup, and whenever you’re letting the horse take breaks on a longer rein, go over the poles in walk. You should get three steps with the front feet between each pole. Ask your horse to walk over in different frames to mix things up – and if your poles are stripy, see if you can do the whole line over one stripe.
Exercise 2: Trot
Now trot over the poles – you should be getting two steps with the front feet between each pole.
Exercise 3: Canter
This is the next step – and it’ll help you get your eye in for a distance as well as making your horse work hard. You should get one step with the front feet between each pole.
Exercise 5: Leg Yield
Leg yielding over poles is an excellent exercise for a horse which wants to ‘cheat’ and not cross through with their hind or tends to fall through the shoulder. The poles force them to really think about where their feet are, and to pick up the shoulder and the hind leg correctly. You can do this one in walk or trot with the poles set at this distance.
Exercise 5: Accuracy
This is the perfect way to practice your accuracy over skinny fences before you start jumping. Come across the school and ride over two of the end poles. You’ll have to ride very straight and be very accurate to get over them both, so don’t be surprised if you miss one to start with!