This pole challenge is suitable for riders of various experience levels. The exercise may be ridden at any gait—depending on the ability of rider and/or horse. Feel free to avoid the smaller circles.
1. Place poles to define an approximate 20m circle. If necessary, adjust size to allow for room to ride around the outside of the poles. Poles with stripes are ideal for this exercise.
2. Choose a circle size to ride. Introduce the exercise at the walk or trot; canter may be added when ready. Ride the circle, crossing each pole in the same place. Smaller circles are best for walk or possibly trot, while canter is better on the larger circles. (Avoid stressing the horse on circles that are too small for their strength and ability.)
3. Are the circles round and even? Try counting the “ups” of the posting trot, or the strides of the canter, between poles. Counting out loud (by the student or the instructor) can enhance the exercise by pointing out places where the horse may be drifting out, cutting in, or changing the pace. Make adjustments as needed until the number is reasonably consistent all around the circle. Can the rider also lengthen or shorten to change the number of strides between poles?
4. Optional: Leg yield/spiral out (or in) between different circle sizes, including around the largest circle on the outside of the poles.
5. Optional: Try your own variations of the exercise.
CENTERED RIDING TIPS:
Strive to ride the pattern with a consistent rhythm and tempo and make each quadrant of the cloverleaf pattern the same shape and size. Pay attention to your building blocks (balance and alignment), as well as to the bend of the horse. Remember to plan your ride with soft eyes, ride the pattern from your center, and maintain quality breathing throughout the exercise.
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