Striding out distances need never confuse you again – Carol Mailer’s guide shows you how to get the most from ground poles.

A placing pole should be put nine feet in front of the fence, which is three paces of three feet each. Placing poles are useful if you or your horse are inexperienced at jumping, and need extra help to find the right take-off point.

“A placing pole will help a horse find a good take-off spot every time,” says Carol, “but it’s easy to get far too reliant on them. Remember, you’ll never find a placing pole in front of a fence at a competition, so if you’re going to compete, you and your horse need to be able to think for yourselves and find your own take-off point. When using a placing pole, I like the horse to approach the fence in trot, not canter.” Carol adds a safety point here: “I’m using plastic poles for the placing pole exercise as they’re lighter and safer if the horse makes a mistake.”

What to aim for:

Aim to ride over the centre of the pole, and let your horse find his natural take-off point.

Potential problems:

Missing the centre of the pole, knocking the pole, rider losing balance.


You might feel you’re too far forward and losing your balance when you first use a placing pole. This is because they can encourage you to look down, and your whole body starts to tip forwards. If you do, add a neck strap so you can balance yourself without leaning on your horse’s mouth. As you’re riding towards the pole, don’t focus on it – look up between your horse’s ears at the jump, or even a point after the jump, like a tree in the distance, or the arena fence. Feel like you’re lifting your chin up – this will stop you looking down.