Polework For Dressage

We’re all familiar with using poles and grids to improve our jumping, but how often do you get the poles out for a flatwork session? If you’re anything like me, not very often! So over the next 4 weeks, e-Venting is bringing you a series of exercises which you can use to improve your flatwork. Of course, this is bound to have a knock-on effect to your jumping, so it’s double the result for half the effort!

We’ve given you approximate distances in metric and imperial, but you may need to alter these slightly to suit your horse.

Week One: The Walk

This exercise is designed to make the walk a true 4-beat, and to increase the throughness of the horse by breaking up the steps. As you increase it in difficulty, you can use it to help improve your trot-walk transitions.

Lay out the poles as shown below:

Distances for walk exercise

Distances for walk exercise – click on the picture to see it enlarged


As you approach the poles, your horse should stretch down and look at the poles, then you should feel him fit 4 steps between the first and second pole, one step over/between each of the middle poles, and 4 steps between the next two poles.

Once he is walking confidently through this, and you’ve felt the quality of the walk start to improve, start approaching the poles in trot, then making a transition to walk before walking through them. By making the transition closer and closer to the first pole, you will feel the quality of the walk improve after the downwards transition. The poles also help to keep the walk more forward after the transition, because if your horse thinks backwards, he’ll find the distances hard.

Tip: Initially, give yourself plenty of room for the downwards transition – training is about setting your horse up to succeed, not making it so hard he has no choice but to fail!

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1 Comment

  • Thanks for this exercise. I did it with my share horse last night and it gave us both something to focus on.

    After doing walk/trot transitions either side I made the poles one side of a square and did quarter turn about the forehands at each corner. I guess walk pirouettes would work too if your horse does them. Then I did some turn about the forehands, over the poles and then walk to canter after the poles. The canter work was much improved!