The canter and using groundpoles; as the song goes, these are a few of my favorite things! And I especially love how, with a few well-placed and simple groundpoles, the canter can begin to become more intentional, rhythmic, and balanced. The added bonus is that so does the rider… So, that being said, let’s improve the canter for you and your horse…
Today, I want to give you a few simple, easy to follow tips so you can begin effectively using groundpoles in your training program with your horse to improve the canter
You see, once you and your horse are comfortable cantering together ‘on the flat’ (no poles involved), groundpoles can really begin to help you both to develop on from here.
Before cantering over a pole, it is always a good idea to first become comfortable walking, and then trotting, over a single pole on the ground. Both horse and rider should feel confident and balanced. From here, the horse and rider can work through lines of poles, such as trotting poles.
It is equally as important for the rider to feel confident, as it is for the horse, when it comes to working over the groundpoles.
Any excess tension through each of the ‘team members’ bodies will result in a loss of forwardness, rhythm, and ‘flow’. All are essential if we want a smooth and enjoyable experience through the canter groundpoles. And, from here, working to improve the canter using them.
The Rider’s Balance
From here, I feel that it is important for the rider to have developed a secure and balanced light seat. This, in my opinion, is essential to initially riding groundpoles in a canter.
Keep in mind that a jump is simply a large canter stride. Similarly, a canter stride over a groundpole can often feel like a small jump…
This is where a lack of suppleness can hinder progress. Many riders can ‘kinda sorta’ get in and out of the light seat – at a walk. Maybe trot… But canter?! I feel that this should be practiced first. The flowing in and flowing back out, while maintaining balance, contact, position, and posture.
Being able to move seemlessly in and out of light seat is key to ‘getting out of the way’ and allowing your horse to do his job.
Start Over a Single Pole
There are so, so many different things that you can do with a single pole on the ground in the canter. Begin with testing you and your horse’s abilities to ‘ride a line. Choose a start point, an endpoint, and have this line intersect the pole at its center, to create a perfect cross. (create graphic)
Riding a straight line each time over a single pole in the canter is not as easy as it seems and requires both horse and rider to focus
Next, over this same single-pole, use your approach to ‘test’ your ability to ‘see a stride’. Simply ride the above-mentioned line, but this time you are going to count down how many strides you have left until ‘take off’ over the pole.
3,2,1 (or the more difficult 5,4,3,2,1) on approach will get you thinking about how many strides you can realistically fit into a measured space in the canter.
This will allow you to begin noticing where the stride length can be adjusted in certain situations. Being able to do this is more useful than you think… On the trail, it can become invaluable!
Adding a Related Pole
From here, you can start to add ‘related poles’. All this means is that you are measuring the distance between the first and second poles so that you can begin accurately getting a certain outcome with your horse. This really will help you to see what needs to happen to improve the canter.
It is always important to allow your horse to initially set the distance. Meaning that when starting, adjust the poles to suit his stride, rather than the other way around.
I also strongly suggest knowing how to ‘step’ certain distances using your own strides. Practice over a measured distance to get the feel for it. So 1m or 1 yard. Or set out ‘one non-jumping canter stride’ distance and go from there. Again, it is vitally important to know the distance your horse is comfortable with and begin to work over that.
Maintaining the Canter Through the Groundpoles
Once you have found a distance that your horse is happy with, you can begin to truly work over the poles. Begin noticing how the canter feels before, during, and after the poles. To improve the canter, paying attention to what is happening while you ride it is so, so important.
Notice if you both can maintain rhythm and relaxation all the way through the poles you have laid out.
Often, the best gauge of relaxation is the ‘smoothness’ element. If the canter changes drastically so that it feels choppy, jerky, or disjointed, there’s a good chance that relaxation has been lost. If this happens, go back to where you can maintain it, and work from there.
Recognise that your influence (whether it’s positive or negative) will have a big consequence on the overall outcome.
If there are challenges, first make sure you are not contributing to them before looking to your horse… Many riders can be crooked in the saddle, or collapse through their bodies over canter groundpoles. Try to remain centered, straight, relaxed, supple and balanced before, through, and after the poles.
Improve the Canter with Groundpoles
If you would like a full riding plan on how to effectively do this with your horse, check out Connection. For February 2022, this is the topic for the month. In there you will get a riding plan to follow for the month to help you do this with your horse.
You will also get audio horse riding lessons that give you step by step instructions on how to effectively guide yourself and your horse to the best outcome.
And if you’re reading this after February 2022, all of the training will be available inside of Connection when you join today🙂
Additional Resources for Riders:-
- One Groundpole Layout; Multiple Ways to Ride It – Free Riding Plan Inside
- Fixing Your Position for Less ‘Bump’ When Riding Over Groundpoles
- 3 Most Common Mistakes when It Comes ot Groundpoles
- Improving Your Riding with Your Light Seat
- 1 Simple Groundpole Exercise to Ride This Week with Your Horse
- Connection; My Online Membership for Equestrians
- Online community for equestrians working on their mindset & fitness
- Online Community for equestrians focusing on re-schooling horses (and ex-racehorses