You don’t need to have access to lots of poles and jump wings to have a useful training session with your horse — or lots of time.

Sir Mark Todd explains two exercises to improve balance, suppleness, accuracy and coordination using a single cross-pole. You only need to spend around 10 minutes doing each — perfect as the nights start drawing in.

Exercise 1: figure of eight with cross-pole

Riding a figure of eight over a cross-pole isn’t as simple as you may think — the constant changing of direction encourages your horse to use both sides of his body.

All you need is a cross-pole set up in the middle of your arena or field at a height you’re comfortable jumping.

  1. Pick up canter on the left rein. Make sure it’s forward and energetic.
  2. Looking at the cross-pole, turn left off the track and jump the jump.
  3. As you land, look to the right.
  4. Turn right, ride a circle and go over the jump again. As you land, look to your left.
  5. Turn left, circle left and go over the fence again.
  6. Repeat this several time. Take a breather and then do the same on the other rein. Focus on keeping an even canter rhythm.

Exercise 2: add two ground poles

This exercise is useful for a lot of horses. If your horse has a tendency to over-jump, or if he jumps a little flat, this simple exercise is for you.

It’s easy to set up and it’s the position of the ground poles that will help your horse to put his feet in the right place and either control his jump or encourage him to make a better shape.

When you’re riding it, leave your horse to suss it out for himself — you’re responsible for creating the energy and maintaining the rhythm and straightness.

How to set it up

Using the cross-pole in exercise one, place one ground pole in front of it and one behind. Both ground poles should be 12ft away from the cross-pole.

How to ride it

  1. In canter on the left rein, turn and approach the cross-pole.
  2. Keep your horse nice and straight as you ride towards the jump.
  3. Keep a steady rhythm and maintain a good position in the saddle.
  4. Let the placing pole adjust your horse’s stride — try not to position your horse in the correct place.
  5. On landing, look up and ride away from the fence in a straight line.
  6. Again, let the ground pole on the landing side influence your horse’s stride.
  7. Repeat the exercise several times off both reins before having a walk break.

Main photo is a stock image. Copyright Kelsey Media

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