What are trotting poles?
Trotting poles are often a set of 4-6 showjumping rails that are laid out at ground level. Generally, they are used to trot over. Of course, if your horse is just starting out, you can walk over the poles. Then progress to trout your horse over the poles. And later in your training, and with an adjusted distance, you could canter over the poles
Do they become 'canter poles' then ?!
Trotting poles are used at various distances to develop a series of training exercises for both horse and rider. Plain rails can be used but the colors of showjumping rails are an ideal introduction to the world of showjumping for your horse.
Do you use something different or something else as trotting poles in your training?
Why use trotting poles before you start show-jumping?
As a rider, the benefits are:
- Improve your balance as a rider
- Improve your rhythm in your riding
- Find a focus and an 'eye' for distance
- Develop the discipline of riding a line (for showjumping)
- Be able to ride and adjust your horse's stride
For your horse, the benefits are:
- Improve their balance as a horse carrying a rider
- Improve their rhythm and ability to lift off the ground
- Give your horse confidence in approaching an obstacle
- Develop their jumping style for showjumping
- Find a focus when approaching their next obstacle
- Develop an ability to adjust their stride
So you can see why trotting poles are so important before you start showjumping.
How do you set up a series of trotting poles that are good for your horse's training?
Find 4-6 showjumping rails that you can use as a set to make trotting poles. Most times if you start with a distance of 1.4 meters between the rails you will be pretty close to an 'average' horses trot stride.
Of course if you already know you are riding a pony you could start at 1.1 meters or if you are riding a big warmblood horse you could start off from 1.5 meters. From where ever you start, know that you are aiming for your horse to go forward in trot with an even rhythm and no change in tempo. Your horse should place a hoofprint halfway between the rails. Adjust the distance between the rails to suit your horses stride. Feel the different trot strides that your horse has.
It is important to find your horses 'natural' stride. Then you can make the adjustments that you want to shorten your horses stride or lengthen your horses stride. The set of trotting poles will help you get a feel for your horse's natural stride as well as adjusting the stride shorter or longer. In showjumping, you need to train your horse to be able to have a shorter or longer stride where necessary, that is part of the art of showjumping!
Once you and your horse have mastered the basic set up of trotting poles, you can do lots more exercises to develop your riding skills in showjumping training. Like setting up the trotting poles on a curved line. The distance at one end is wider than the other end and it is your job as a rider to stay on the line that takes you through the center of the rails. Not as easy to ride as when the trotting poles are in a straight line, that is for sure!