It’s time for week three of our series of pole exercises designed to help you improve your dressage marks. This exercise is another trot exercise, but this time it’s all about control and straightness.
Week 3: Trot Work – Controlling the Shoulders
One of the key things you need to be able to do in order to keep your marks in the dressage phase high, is control the shoulders of your horse. This exercise improves a whole range of things, but the key thing it does is test the control you have over your horse’s shoulders.
Lay out the poles as shown in the picture. Start with them all on the ground, and only start using raised poles when you can do this exercise accurately every time.
First, aim for the centre of each pole. This should be a good working trot stride. Common errors here are irregularity of step caused by the horse falling in or out through the shoulder, so if it feels unbalanced, check you’re hitting the middle of each pole.
Tip: If your horse is falling in, make your approach a bit wider and aim slightly towards the outside of the first pole. Conversely if he’s falling out, aim slightly to the inside of the first pole.
Once you can ride a smooth curve, with your horse staying soft and round, and hit the middle of each pole, move either towards the centre for a more collected trot, or towards the outside for a longer stride. Again, you’re aiming to hit each pole in the same place so you get an even rhythm.
Finally, repeat with the ends of the poles raised slightly. Obviously, you need to trot through on both reins so you work your horse evenly. This is hard work, so make sure you allow frequent breaks!
Tip: You can build up to doing the raised poles and riding to different places on the poles over a number of sessions – if this isn’t an exercise you’re using already, don’t try and race through all the variations in one session.