Today I set out our first Equi-pole Polework App exercise; the snake. You can see the resemblance as the poles zig zag down the center of the arena.
I choose this exercise because I wanted something simple as an introduction to pole work for Izzie. In our recent training sessions we have been working on suppleness and bending. I wanted to mix up our normal arena workout with something different to help Izzie focus and engage her body correctly by lifting her back and pushing with her hind end.
The snake was perfect. It was different, but not overly complicated. The exercise, being set up in one long straight line only required Izzie to navigate 1 pole at a time, not a series of poles as in many ground pole exercises like the one below.
We started off at the walk. She kicked the poles as we walked over them, but she soon figured out her footing and balance to lift her back and her hooves and step cleanly over the pole.
We weaved back and forth over the poles starting to bring a sense a suppleness into Izzi’s body. We then moved on to a circle to change directions to go back down the line and into a figure eight. The rhythmic nature of the pattern created structure to our ride and by nature of the movement, Izzie’s body began to loosen up like a good yoga exercise. Added bonus she started to focus on the task at hand and really engaged in our ride instead of looking all around at the happenings around the property.
Once Izzie was feeling confident in the walk we picked up the trot. I was surprised that at the trot she had to figure out her balance all over again. I laughed and remained patient, allowing her to sort it out. That’s the great part about ground poles. As a rider I can be quiet with my aids and really let Izzie figure it out on her own. It’s great problem solving for them and gives them a lot of freedom to think through the challenge. I think they really enjoy it and even appreciate the freedom to figure it out on their own with out us pestering them all the time. It also fosters a thinking mind which I love. I want my horses to be engaged thinkers, looking to me for leadership, but coming to the conversation with a spirit of their own as well.
Izzie is so smart and it didn’t take her very long before she had figured out the proper stride length to navigate the poles without tripping over them. From there a beautiful stride developed. It felt great. It was soft, relaxed and focused. It was a perfect first introduction to using ground poles in our weekly routine.
A few things to note:
1.) Go slow. What seems simple to us can actually be challenging for your horse. Take your time in the walk to really get your horse moving forward and understanding the pattern before moving to trot or even to canter. Expect there to be a moment of “learning” again when you move up a gait. It’s like a whole new exercise each time you change from one gait to the other.
2.) Use long poles or set the poles further apart from each other. We started with 7′ poles touching each other. I found the curved lines were too close together and we couldn’t properly make our bending lines smoothly with my young horses large stride. Using 12′ poles made the exercise much smoother.
3.) Have fun with it.
If you want to learn more about incorporating ground pole work into your routine with your horse check out the Equi_Pole_app_Official. There are lots of fabulous exercises that range from beginner to advanced. There are instructions for setting up each exercise and notes about the different patterns you can ride over and through within each pole set up. It’s fabulous! The app really takes the guess work out of creating gymnastic exercises for your horse.