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

Getting your distances right.
A distance of 12ft is a good one to work to, as course builders use this distance as a basis for building jumping courses. You can also ride over 12ft poles in any pace – in walk, you’ll take three strides between 12ft poles. In trot, you’ll take two, and in canter, you’ll take just one stride between poles. “Getting your distance exactly right means you don’t have to adjust them as you change pace,” Carol explains. With all pole work, remember to ride over them in both directions and don’t do them over and over again endlessly – alternate some riding over poles with going large around the school, give your horse breaks, and always praise him for accurate polework.

Using a measuring tape
To get a precise distance, invest in a builder’s tape – you can buy one of these from a builder’s merchant. If you have access to a school it should be easy to make sure you’re working on a level surface, but if you have to use a field, try to use the flattest part, as your measurements will be much more accurate on a fl at surface. There’s a safety aspect too – never place poles in an area where the ground dips, or the horse won’t be able to clearly see they’re there.

Ideally, the poles you use should be heavy enough that they won’t blow around or move excessively if your horse touches them, but not so heavy that he could injure himself by knocking them. If you can’t afford to buy poles, you can use narrow logs if you have access to them, but they should have a smooth surface – any stumps or branches sticking out may catch your horse and cause an injury.

Use a stake to secure one end of the measuring tape in to the ground, and mark a point 12ft from your starting point. Place a pole on the ground at that point, and then add another pole 12ft away, working up to a total of four poles. Take a little time to make sure your poles are all horizontal to each other, as crooked poles mean inaccurate distances. Your series of four poles should be a perfect 12ft away from each other – this is one textbook canter stride distance away from the next.