Improve your horse’s rhythm with poles

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If your horse struggles to maintain a steady rhythm in canter, try show jumper Mia Palles-Clark’s exercise to get him on time, every time.

Aiming to ride over four poles may not sound very challenging, but it’ll help to prove whether or not your horse keeps his rhythm.

"This exercise is great for pointing out rhythm issues," says Mia.

"If your horse adds in an extra stride, it will upset you rhythm over all the other poles."

The poles in this exercise are placed at 30° angles to help you stay straight and highlight when you're not.

If your horse drifts, he'll have to add or miss a step.

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Making your way lengthways down the arena, place four poles on the three-quarter line of the area you’re working in, as shown on the diagram (right).

The poles should be at a 30° angle to each other.

The poles should also be about seven yards away from each other and your aim is to ride one canter stride between each.

The angle and distance between your poles may vary slightly depending on the size of your horse and it might also help to have a person on the ground.

How to ride it

  • Make sure your horse is warmed up and get him working in canter on the right rein, with a steady, bouncy rhythm.
  • Go large around the arena a few times until you feel happy with the tempo and speed, keeping him between your leg and your hand.
  • Turn onto the three-quarter line from the short side of the arena, pushing your horse off the track and into the turn using your outside leg. Keep your leg on, but control the pace by half-halting with the outside rein and create a bend in his body using your inside rein and leg.
  • Canter straight over the centre of each pole, aiming for one stride between each.
     
  • Once you’ve collected your horse’s canter and have a good, steady rhythm over the poles, you can try lifting them to 60cm.