The benefits of using the Clock Exercise /Poles on a circle

Most of you would have heard of ‘TheClock’ exercise, but do you realize how beneficial it is to your riding and your horse?

You simply set 4 poles out on a 20m circle, a pole at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and practice walking, trotting and cantering over the poles whilst staying on the 20m circle. It is a very popular exercise and many trainers and top riders spend hours using it as part of their regular schooling because of the benefits it has.

All you need are 4 poles, a ménage or an appropriate riding area that is safe. 
clock exercise

What to do? 
  • Place your 4 poles Using at the four points of a 20m circle. Make sure the poles are evenly apart from each other. 
  • If you are trying this exercise for the first time, you can always make the circle a little bit bigger at first, as the poles do come around quite fast. 
  • Start the exercise in walk then trot, if you’re finding 4 poles a bit difficult to start with, you can pick two poles opposite each other and practices using these, as you warm up over the poles begin to think about creating a good even rhythm between them. 
  • When your horse is warm and you feel like both you and your horse have gained some confidence, go forwards to canter. 
  • At first just canter over two poles (like you did in trot) and see if you can keep the two sides of the circle the same size and with the same amount of strides between the two poles. 
  • When you’re ready, begin to use all 4 poles on the circle. 
  • At first aim to create a good natural rhythm and see if you can get the same amount of canter strides in between each pole. A natural canter should get somewhere between 4 or 5 strides on a 20m circle depending on how big your horses stride is. 
  • Once you have mastered a natural rhythm with your horse on the circle you can then begin to play with your strides and see how many you can get in on a circle. 
  • You should start by lengthening or shortening by just one stride, as even one stride will make the exercise much harder. 
  • Remember, the key is to keep your horse balanced and round on the circle. This exercise is fantastic for creating a good rhythm and a balanced horse and rider. 
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Once you have practiced a few times and feel that you and your horse are ready, you can start chopping and changing your strides on the circle. Going from 3 to 6, 7 or even 8 strides. 

Katy Thomas and her horse Apollo show a great example in this training video on how they often add or take away a stride for each quarter of the circle.  on my Youtube and Facebook page

The Clock exercise is not a quick fix or a one day wonder. Used constantly and over a period time you will feel and see your horse improve. Remember to not get despondent if you only manage a natural rhythm on your first attempt, take this as a positive and don’t try and rush into changing your strides straight away. Keep practicing the clock exercise regularly and you will soon reap the benefits as both you and your horse improve. 

Don’t forget to warm your horse up suitably before and cool down after the exercise.
Take breaks periodically during the exercise. Your horse might get dizzy!! And always remember to make sure to work evenly on both reins

Why is the Clock Exercise so benficial? 

  1. It is an   exercise that demands impulsion, rhythm, control and balance! Some of the main tools you need to show jump and perform many other riding disciplines. 
  2. It is a very diverse exercise that can be used on all types of working horses and offers fantastic results when done properly
  3. It is simple to set up at home and doesn’t require a lot of equipment
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Why does it work?

The exercise is both tricky but achievable and will get your horse thinking. It is kind of like one of those annoying puzzles that you download on your phone and always go back to because you constantly want to beat your previous score. 
Horses enjoy the exercise too as it adds a bit of excitement to your flat work as a pole seems to capture their attention for just that little bit longer.

Remember to have fun and be patient…. You will see the fruits of your work. 
For more flatwork and schooling exercises and tips Read more