I saw an exercise online last week and modified it slightly to help a client who’s pony tends to motorbike around corners.
Using one corner of the school, I laid out three trotting poles on the track. There was 4’6″ between the centre of each pole, which also conveniently also lay on the track my rider had made.
We worked on both reins with the poles laid flat until they were trotting around the corner easily, making the distance between each pole comfortably. Initially, the pony found it difficult to bend and increase her cadence so drifted through the outside shoulder. My rider had to use her outside rein and leg to support her pony through the turn and maintain the support for longer as they came out of the turn. She also found that if she used her inside rein and had too much bend through the neck, they drifted out more and found the exercise harder. So it was a good way of reminding my rider of the correct rein aids and contact.
Next I built up the trot poles into cavaletti, however I only raised the inside of each pole. This was to discourage the pair from falling in around the corner and to improve the activity and strength of the inside hind leg.
As the pony had to put in more effort over the raised poles she started to drift out around the corner, but the fence helped my rider correct this and as the bend developed through her whole body so she began to find it easier and stayed more balanced throughout.
With the abdominals now switched on the trot improved generally and the mare had a good stretch over her topline.
We moved on to riding a canter transition just after the poles to start working the canter. The more active trot helped the transitions have more energy and the subsequent trot was looser so their trot poles improved further.
Now finished with the trotting poles, I converted them to canter poles and after cantering through once started to raise them. This pony tends to motorbike more in canter, so the raised poles were even more beneficial at improving her balance and bend through the corners. They also stopped my rider leaning in!
The canter became stronger, balanced and more three time because the inside hind leg had become more supple and was stepping under the body more.
I was really pleased with the improvement in the quality of the trot and canter due to the trot poles, and my rider could feel how much more balanced they were around the corners which is great for developing her feel. She’ll now know when she gets it right and can strive to replicate the feeling.
I wanted to see how the poles on the corner helped their jump, so I walked two canter strides away from the third pole and put up an upright. As expected, the mare backed off the first time, but from then on she jumped it beautifully. The poles kept her really balanced and her hocks engaged so that the bascule was neat and my rider could feel the lift through the shoulders, and generally felt that the jump was more scopey and powerful. I then reversed the exercise so they could do it on the other rein. Hopefully this exercise will help them create better corners around a jumping course and with time ride tighter turns whilst staying balanced which will help them stay clear whilst against the clock. I just wish I’d taken a photo of the exercise!