POLE WORK CHALLENGES - Producing a meaningful and responsive canter

Keeping things interesting and fun this winter with some great tips from proffessional rider Katy Thomas  

Winter is well and truly upon us and with it comes cold weather, dark evenings and wet ground! It can be really easy to lose motivation and momentum going into the winter months but it’s important to keep powering through. You might not be able to get out competing as much or train as much as you’d like, but remember, preparation is the key to success, so use these dark nights to your advantage – train now, win later!

Some people slow down through winter but I prefer to use this time to my advantage and prepare for the New Year with lots of hacking and fitness training and schooling! 

There are lots of exercises you can do in your ménage at home which keep things fun and interesting and don’t take much preparation or set up time, so below I have included my favourite fun exercise which I do with a lots riders I teach. 

Working on a meaningful and responsive canter: Katy school 1

I use this exercise a lot at home, both in lessons and when schooling my horses. 

  • A forward and “bouncy” canter is really important when show jumping and being able to change the tempo, speed and stride length is really helpful.
  • Simply setting two poles out in the ménage, about 6-7 canter strides apart is a fun and easy exercise. 
  • Just lie two poles on the long side of your ménage; there is no need to stride the poles perfectly. 
  • Incorporate these poles into your flat session, firstly canter through the poles in a relaxed and natural canter, counting how many strides your horse naturally puts in between the two poles. Let’s say for example your horse has put 6 strides in.
Next time round aim to create a shorter, more collected canter and look at getting 7 canter strides between your poles - One less stride than before. It may take a few attempts at first.

Next: Time to push the canter forward and aim for a more forward stride. This time try to aim for 5 strides.

Katy riding article
Note: A longer, forward canter shouldn’t be mistaken for a fast canter. Fast and furious often ends up with poles down in a SJ round as fast results in flat, so when asking a horse for a more forward canter you must remember to keep a strong seat, sitting up and keeping a good rein contact.  

Once you have mastered the basic steps of this exercise you can challenge yourself and your friends. Aiming for 7, 8, 9 strides and 5,4,3. 

This exercise is really fun and a lot of the people I teach use it as a warm up exercise before they jump. It helps develop a bouncy and responsive canter and makes the rider think about the speed, rhythm and tempo of their horse canter. 

You can use this exercise as a bit of a game, have a friend shout out how many strides to put in as you come around the corner or challenge your friends to see who can get more strides in. 

It is really important to keep a productive canter whilst doing this exercise, but more importantly, remember to have fun!  
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