Engage your horse’s core with poles

There’s more to a square of poles than just trotting over them.

Here, Mia Palles-Clark shows how to work on your horse’s core muscles with a simple quadrilateral  

You might think that working on core muscles is just for avid gym-goers, but your horse can benefit too.

Building his core muscles is also good for strengthening his back and will make it easier for him to transfer his weight onto his hindquarters, making him feel lighter in your hand.

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In this exercise, show jumper Mia Palles-Clark shows how to build his core strength by riding on a simple square.

“This exercise is very good for helping your horse collect himself and engaging his core muscles,” explains Mia. “It also helps with his concentration and getting the rider to feel a good canter.”

In one end of the area you’re working in, set up four poles in a square shape, so that they’re 12 yards apart from each other. You can make the square smaller as you become more advanced.

Tip: If you want to try this exercise in trot first, put the poles 10 yards apart from each other

How to ride it

Start on the right rein and establish a balanced canter. Go large in the area that you’re working in until you’re happy that the pace is steady.

Step 1

Move in off the track and start cantering around the outside of the square, as close as you can to the poles.

Canter around the square twice.

Step 2

On the second turn around, prepare to move inside the square.

Use your outside leg to push him over and gently use your inside rein to bring him inside the poles.

You may find that you need to collect your canter more, so half-halt to control his speed.

Step 3

Canter twice round inside the square, maintaining a collected canter.

Step 4

After you’ve cantered round twice, push your horse out of the square with your inside leg and outside rein.

Canter around the outside of the square twice more, so that you complete six circuits in total.

Once complete, change to the left rein and repeat.   

 Problem solving

Your horse might favour one rein over the other and begin to drift away from the poles when he goes around the outside.

Remember to keep your outside leg on to push him as close to the edge of the poles as possible. If he’s really struggling, take the exercise down to trot.