Posted by: rstor | October 22, 2014

Polework Makes Horses More Aware of Obstacles and Engage Attention- Take a Look with Michaela Huntington!

Absolute Horse September 2014.jpeg


Michaela says shares an exercise to help your horse become more aware of obstacles and engage his attention as recently featured in Absolute Horse Magazine. Using polework can help keep you safer in the saddle as the useful training exercises improve both your own and your horse’s reactions, suppleness and your horse/pony’s focus.

“Canter poles can be used in many different ways, and are useful to establish a good canter rhythm and to help keep your canter strides even. They can initially consist of three poles on the ground in a straight line about 3.5 meters apart (which will vary according to the height, size and stride of your horse) – they can be fine-tuned by an assistant on the ground, as you ride. Canter poles are excellent for helping the horse become more aware of obstacles, and also aiding him to be careful about where he puts his feet. They can be raised, shortened and lengthened, providing the perfect tool for collecting and extending the canter stride without losing balance or control – they should engage the horse’s attention and encourage obedience. Using them in front of a jump as a guide for the perfect take off position is also a useful exercise.

Three basic canter poles

Start the canter poles exercise by setting up three basic canter poles on the three-quarter line of your arena, giving you the choice of doing the exercise or by-passing it, and providing easy access on either rein.  Establish a good medium canter before doing the exercise, and then ride down the canter poles, ensuring that the horse’s canter remains in perfect rhythm throughout. If not, make the finer adjustments that will help you both, moving the first and/or the third pole, but not the middle one. The aim is to keep your horse on the same, correct canter lead throughout, and not fall in or out in either direction, but to remain straight. Coloured poles are preferable to plain ones, as they will have a central colour for your eye to follow.

Adding more poles

When your horse is confident with this exercise on both reins, you can add further pole(s) as required – the longer the line of poles, the more he will need to concentrate. A good diversion is to raise one side of alternate poles, encouraging a more elevated canter, which can then lead to all poles being raised, or any combination that you please. Never raise the poles above a few inches, as you would then lose the canter exercise, and encourage bounce jumps. At more advanced levels, the poles may be shortened slightly to collect the canter, or lengthened to extend it. In both cases, you would need to establish the canter you need before using the exercise, then try to maintain it – the proof of perfection is when the canter does not change before, during or after using the canter poles.

Advanced work

Established canter pole work can later lead to the addition of a three canter pole exercise with a jump added at the end, to help the rider to see the correct stride, and to encourage the horse to approach a fence evenly.”

Michaela Huntington is an advocate of the RS-tor rider safety aid. The idea of the RS-tor is to boost stability in the saddle, for example with an extravagant jumper or spooky horse, and also enhance safety. The rider simply holds the end of the RS-tor, which is shaped like a riding crop handle; it is an arm’s length of security! It can prevent the horse being jabbed in the mouth during the training process, and for a horse that trips, it can bring additional safety benefits to the rider. The most obvious benefit to the RS-tor is the way it reduces the velocity of the rider’s movement if they become unseated, potentially preventing a fall, or allowing a safer or more controlled fall. It is a great product to use when training with canter poles and grids! Visit


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