Today we had a guinea pig lesson for a new instructor. They are getting ready to take their teaching exams and she was looking for guinea pig horse and riders to practice new exercises on. So naturally I jumped at the chance for a free clinic type lesson.
We spent most of the lesson working on the following grid of poles:
At first this layout of poles looked very complicated and scary! But once she started explaining all the different routes it made me realise how useful this grid is. I loved this session and Scottie seemed to really enjoy it too and it seemed to give him a lot of confidence too.
This exercise is really easy to layout if you have the standard 12ft long poles as laying them end to end will mean your distances between the poles should be perfect. But always double check! If you have longer or shorter poles you might need to make some adjustments, depending on your horses stride length.
I’ve made another diagram to show you all the possibly route you can take and I’ll talk you through each of them. There are several routes over single poles I haven’t included and if your horse is a worrier you can walk through all the routes first to give them an idea of what is going on.
The pink line in the bottom right hand corner can be done at any pace, but is easiest at walk and trot as you need to be very accurate. I wouldn’t canter until your horse is really listening to you and thinking about where you are going. Once you’ve been over a few poles I think the pink route is a good route to start building up to more interesting and complicated lines.
The yellow, red, orange and blue routes are all trot routes. The easiest routes are the yellow routes and these are probably one of the routes to start with. The orange route is also a good route to build on riding over the poles at an angle.
The red route is very direct and appears straightforward. However, depending on the length of your poles, it can be very easy for your horse to duck out of a pole if you aren’t straight and keeping them straight.
Finally we have the blue line. This line can be very tricky as 1) you are taking all the poles t an angle, 2) you are aiming for the end section of each pole so it’s easy for your horse to duck out and 3) the distance between these poles will be longer than the red route, so your horse will need to reach a bit more.
The green route is a canter route. Depending on how big your school is and how balanced your horse is, rather than turning too tightly in canter to get straight to this exercise, a good exercise you can do is ask for canter once you’re straight to the poles.
I really enjoyed this exercise and I will be using it again soon. We have some potties at the yard so I might even raise some of the poles too. We have quite long poles at our yard, so all our distances were a bit long, but since Scottie is a big horse, he can reach these distances when I really push him forwards, so this exercise is probably good for him with the longer distances. Scottie was also very good at thinking about where his feet are and where they need to be, so even when we got wrong strides or the distances weren’t quite right, he is very good at fitting in around the poles. I highly recommend trying this with yours horses!