Polework to supple your horse

Limited core strength in your horse can make him reluctant to bend his body, but exercises that use his rib cage and open the muscles in his sides. Have a go at this exercise, as suggested by dressage rider Samantha Brown. 


SET IT UP: Place eight trot poles (or as many as you have) on the ground in an S shape. The poles should be at angles to each other, but the middle of each pole should be about four heel-to-toe steps apart (or one horse’s foot fall).

Travel over the middle of each pole. To help, use a couple of coloured guide poles at the beginning and in the middle of the exercise to keep you on track.

How to ride it

Step 1

Walk your horse over the centre of each pole, using your hand and leg aids to bend him through the curve. This warms him up and gets him used to bending through the S shape.

Step 2

Once your horse feels happy, move into active trot. He’ll be using and contracting his core and abs a lot with this exercise, so keep your leg on to maintain his energy.

Step 3

If your horse is new to this exercise, trot over it three times on each rein and then move onto something else or start your cool down.

Once he’s built his strength up, you’ll be able to move onto step 4.

Step 4

As a level up to this exercise, you can begin to raise the poles at one end.

Start with lifting the second and last poles by 1ft (leaving the first pole flat as a guide), and trot over these.

Your horse might struggle initially, so if he doesn’t quite get his bend into the second half of the snake, ride him out of the poles and try again.

Step 5

The target of the exercise is to have all of the poles (apart from your coloured guide poles) lifted by 1ft at one end.

It’s a tough exercise that really works your horse’s core and you may notice he tires quickly.

Trot through it once or twice on each rein and then cool down.

As well as working your horse’s core, it'll also reveal any suppleness issues. It’s a hard exercise to practise, so build up gradually over time.