Cavaletti – why they're not just for showjumpers

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Think training with cavaletti is just for showjumpers? Nope. Any horse and rider combination can benefit, so we’ve teamed up with eventer Richard Waygood to show you why these little jumps are schooling gems.

Cavaletti poles are small jumps with the rail or pole fixed at each end to an X or block, so they can’t be knocked down. By rotating them onto different sides, the height can be adjusted from 4–24in.

Originally made from wood, which you still see at some yards, modern cavaletti are made from strong, synthetic materials. They should be heavy enough so that they don’t roll easily if knocked, but still move out of the way if tripped over or hit with force.

The newer types of cavaletti are easy to move and transport, making them an ideal training aid whatever you do with your horse.

Richard often uses raised cavaletti as placing poles before and after a fence. The extra height helps to focus your horse’s attention.

“Place one raised cavaletti three to four strides in front of the fence,” says Richard. “Then place another on the landing side – for safety’s sake at a slightly more generous distance. This helps your horse to stay straight and keep the same rhythm before and after the fence, which is important when jumping a course. It also stops him from opening up his frame and getting too long as he canters away.”

This exercise is also excellent for regulating your horse’s speed. “If you’re working with a 12ft canter stride, which for argument’s sake we’ll call 12mph, this is the speed you should keep throughout. The placing poles help to stop your horse getting faster and flatter, which isn’t a great combination when you’re jumping.”

Even if your horse isn’t a showjumper, this exercise teamed with a small cross-pole is a useful way to teach him how to regulate his paces and develop impulsion.

Bounce, bounce, bounce

Another great exercise for strength and conditioning is to place three cavaletti at bounce distance along the long side of your arena, leave four or five non-jumping strides (depending on the size of the arena), then add another three cavaletti at bounce distance.

“This is one of the best gymnastic exercises you can do,” says Richard. “It’s ridden in canter and the rider’s job is to keep the rhythm and balance through the line.”

You can ride this exercise in collected or medium canter but, whichever you choose, you must keep the impulsion and keep your horse in front of your leg.

“The distance of the bounces depends on what you’re trying to achieve,” says Richard. “For instance, if you’re working on activating your horse’s hindleg, you might want the distances shorter, so your horse works over his back. To develop his medium canter, the cavaletti will need to be a little further apart.”

Ride through the whole line, maintaining the forward momentum, but make sure that you don’t confuse speed with impulsion.

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