Ground poles are a fantastic tool for horses of all disciplines. They help to improve self-control, balance, focus, suppleness, elasticity, coordination and strength in both the horse and the rider.
You just need to set the four poles out before you get on, then all the exercises can be ridden without changing anything. I generally set them out so that the centre of each pole lies on a 20m circle with a pole at each of the four compass points (or 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock if you prefer!), but you can adjust the diameter according to your arena size and the level of schooling of your horse.
Ride the circle round the outside of the poles, but every time you pass a pole make a small circle round it. These can start off quite large and get smaller as your horse warms up. Again try to ensure a consistent bend through the body, prevent the shoulders falling out on the smaller circles and avoid overuse of the inside rein. Try opening the inside hand a little if necessary. This can be ridden in walk and trot on both reins, and also in canter on a more advanced horse.
After, ride the circle incorporating all of the poles. This is seriously tricky to do accurately. As before you need to be constantly aware of the shoulders and quarters falling in and out and you’ll find that the poles come up very quickly. There are generally 3 or 4 canter strides between poles depending on the size of horse and size of circle. Try to hit each pole exactly in the centre and get the same number of strides round each quarter of the circle. Counting out loud is helpful!