This post follows on from my previous blog post – ‘a beginners guide to long reining’ – which highlighted the benefits of working your horse without a rider. Here are several in-hand pole work exercises that you can also do whilst long reining.
These exercises should be carried out at a walking pace as it removes all moments of suspension, and therefore movement is performed purely through muscular effort. This makes it the most effective pace for in-hand pole work exercise as it aides strength and muscle development.
The Fan.Using six poles set out a fan shape. Place the poles 0.5m (1 ft) width apart at the narrow end of the fan, and 3m (5 ft) at the opposite end.
This exercise needs to be carried out in an active walk with a slight inside bend in your horse’s body. You can shorten or lengthen their stride depending on which line you decide to take through the poles, furthermore, this exercise can be advanced by raising every other pole.
A Line of Raised Poles.A simple line of straight poles is a good way to engage your horse’s core, and to improve straightness. Place the poles 1.5m (4 ft) apart and raise alternate ends of each pole.
Do not rush your horse through this exercise – allow them to walk through at their natural walking pace. If carried out properly this exercise will help to engage your horse’s core as they lift their legs, building strength.
Spiral In.Using 4 (or 8) poles laid out as a cross spiral your horse outwards from the centre. This exercise engages the hind legs as they pass over the poles, improving flexibility in the horse’s back and neck.
Weaving Line.Place two poles end-to-end, then place a block where they meet to raise them off of the ground. Copy this 2 times.
Weave your horse across each pole, varying the extent of each bend to meet your requirements. This exercise improves flexibility throughout the body and encourages the hock to lift up and across the body – a good method of strengthening the sacroiliac joint.
Wiggle.Lay out 6 poles in the style outlined above, and pass your horse through and also around the poles alternately. This exercise is great for improving suppleness, as the poles guide the horse to bend around itself, improving the range of motion throughout the body.
You should perform all 5 of exercises on both reins to avoid injury through uneven muscle build up. I hope these exercises inspire you to improve your horse’s strength and suppleness.
If you enjoyed this piece on in-hand pole work exercises keep an eye out on our Instagram for pole work exercises in trot – coming soon!