In the dead of winter, a trainer gave me a couple ground pole exercises to practice. They were challenging and improved my horse’s responsiveness to leg aids. The exercises can be completed at the walk, so they’re great for days when it’s too cold or too hot to ride hard. All you need is four ground poles and a little patience.
Here’s the first exercise. It’s very common in trail classes.
Backing through an L
Arrange your ground poles in an L-shape to create a chute that’s three or four feet wide. The wider the chute, the easier the exercise. If your horse is anxious working around poles, walk him straight through the chute and over the poles until he’s calm and ready to focus. Then, take a few minutes to practice your turn on the forehand.
When you’re ready, walk your horse straight through the chute and halt at one end. Try to line up the heel of your boot with the end of the pole. Ask your horse to slowly back up. Take one step at a time and concentrate on straightness. When you reach the corer, ask your horse to move his hindquarters into the next section of the L.
Continue backing up until you clear the poles. Give your horse a pat and then walk a large circle to give him a break. Then turn around and try it the other way. Check out the video below to see my gelding and I practicing the exercise.
Tip: I have a bad habit of riding with really long reins. If you ride with shorter reins, you’ll have an easier time controlling your horse’s body.