Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cavaletti and Ground Pole Favourites

Here are my favorite ground pole torture methods, er.... I mean exercises :)

Aww, don't worry Greta. You'll do fine :)

Now, they will be demonstrated on my dream cavaletti set of various shades of pink, and the line of motion is in purple. Of course all of these exercises strengthen the topline, but I'm also big on working on precision, as that's a point Greta and I struggle with sometimes haha! Now let's go.

Simple Cavaletti, AKA The Iron Maiden. I like to make double use out of my cavaletti, because it means more time in the saddle and less time fixing things around. I like to spice up a typical cavaletti setup by making Miss Greta go in between them. It's much easier to do at the walk than the trot right now, but we'll get there. It's good for both horse and rider as it keeps our movements precise and accurate. The turns are the hardest part, because of course, you gotta turn right so you'll make in between two cavaletti :)

"The Big X" AKA The Wheel of Torture. I have to use two of our 6' cavaletti to make it fair for her at the trot, as a 12' circle at the trot going over poles is a bit strenuous. I got this exercise from Horse Illustrated and it helps by teaching "your horse to stay round through his turns and circles; teaches your eyes to look ahead and stay on a chosen track; and introduces the opening rein". Striped poles are a must, because it enforces staying a chosen track, i.e., going over the outside colored stripe on the all the outside poles, or the middle stripe, etc. And it definitely, DEFINITELY introduces that opening rein haha! It's also great to canter AROUND as it makes good geometrical markers for a large circle (it's about a 24-foot circle)..... y'all should know better than to try and canter a horse OVER the poles.

It's also good to go over the center of the X, and I'm sure it helps to prepare a horse for jumping, as they have to go over a very specific and fixed point. But it's also good for dressage, as it keeps both horse and rider accurate and precise because they're going through such a specific point!

A Modification of The Big X, AKA The Pinwheel of Doom. Heehee this one Greta and I have to do at the walk, because it requires a lot of attention to detail and for the horse to really pay attention to where they're placing their feet, and the fact they have to raise their feet a little bit more does require a lot of strength. It's like doing a lap of running where you raise your knee to be level with your pelvis each step, whatever those are called. But it CAN be done at the trot, as I have seen it done several times by more advanced horses at the stables: in fact, I saw it done quite nicely today by Mister Jigsaw during a lesson.

The two middle poles are propped up where the four poles on the ground meet, making the middle poles raised at an angle. You can walk your horse around it in a circle (I know I drew the middle stripe as the focusing point, but it would be MUCH more realistic, and biomechanically correct I'm sure, for the focusing point to be the outside colored stripe or the very outside stripe for starters, like Greta and I!) OR you can also bring your horse through the center as a raised point to go over, the height being the equivalent of a very low crossrail. Same as the previous exercise, it's a very exact focusing point so it's excellent for precision as well.

So, see Greta? They're good for you, and they aren't so bad. Now let me see your happy face!!!

(I couldn't duplicate the cartoon from above haha!)


Yeah, I'm no trainer, but I like to use cavaletti because it just has sooooo many benefits for horse and rider. I learned all of these exercises from my trainers and Horse Illustrated, so I'm not just making any of these up and they come from sources I trust and so far they seem to be working. I'd just thought they'd be interesting to share. Just a little disclaimer there.


  1. The Spiral is one of my favorite exercises. I find that the shape has countless uses: spiral in, spiral out, incorporate transitions, leg yield or halfpass, collecting, lengthening, relaxing your horse or energizing him/her. I have never tried it with poles though! Another gymnastic use of the spiral exists for me to try. Thanks!

  2. Yes, the Spiral is fun but hard! The poles make it easier for Greta and I b/c it gives us a focusing point to shoot for so we know for sure we're spiraling in or out and still staying geometrically correct.

    When I was first learning dressage I used to be very good at making circles without aids like cones or poles. I think it was because I was also taking Geometry at the time and could figure out a focusing point right. I seem to have lost that talent haha. Dressage seems to be the only thing I ever use Geometry in nowadays haha.


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