Welcome to December, and the second month of our winter polework series!
This month we are focusing on corners - polework has a variety of uses when it comes to schooling, but we've chosen to make our winter series as relevant for improving your dressage scores as possible... and that most definitely includes good corners!
We have tried to bring our favourite layouts to you in a child-friendly way. As always, our Demi Dressage ethos is to promote confidence and fun, so we have chosen layouts which won’t over-face riders (and ponies!) of all ages and abilities. Of course, the more proficient you become with your polework, the more you can increase the degree of difficulty (as you will see us do in January’s theme!)
Ideally you will need eight poles for this month's exercises, but if you have less, just use the pole layouts in two of your corners, and see if your rider can ride the 'empty' corners the same way they do the corners with the poles (this is a valuable training technique I actually utilise - for example I might start a session with poles in all four corners, and then when pony and rider are confident, I'll take one or two of the corners away!)
As always, this is a pretty simple layout to set up - the most important thing is to get your poles the same distance from the arena fence all the way round. I went for about 2m in from the fence, but if your rider is worried, or they're just not that good at riding into their corners yet, have them slightly further in (maybe 3m from the fence) and start them off easy before moving the poles closer to the fence to increase the degree of difficulty.
Once you're set up, all your rider has to do is school as normal, as if the poles weren't there! But hopefully the poles will help guide them a little more into the corners than they might usually ride - particularly through changes of rein which is where we tend to see the most 'lazy corners'/corner cutting (who *hasn't* ever had Susy write on your sheet 'remember to ride from letter to letter to improve accuracy'..? If you haven't, you're in a very small minority!)
We also used the poles to ride transitions in the corners - when focusing on the transition it can be easy to forget the corner...! But a lot of transitions, especially in lower level tests are ridden 'between' markers to give the rider more time than doing them 'at' a specific letter - and most times this means corners. Additionally, well-ridden corners, especially utilising transitions, are a super little gymnastic exercise for your pony, having the effect of bringing the inside hind further under the body so the pony can carry themselves better.
To finish, we challenged MiniD's accuracy, and added 45' turns to 'cut off' the corners by making an angled line over the poles (see diagram). This sounds simple but is hard to ride accurately (and MiniD got a little stroppy about it, so we finished pretty quickly with this exercise - I subsequently rode it myself and it definitely highlighted the need to plan/prepare, and make sure I was really riding the body of my horse with my legs and outside turning aids to make sure they were straight over the line I had chosen (two steps 'inside' the set square) over the poles.) Never underestimate the value of little exercises like this - of being able to ride your pony on *exactly* the line you have chosen - it pays dividends in the long run in all your riding, from dressage tests to jumping!
I hope this layout shares the value in poles as 'props' for your schooling, and that you don't always have to ride over them to reap the benefits!
Remember, there is no charge for taking part in these polework exercises - we just want to see you all enjoying yourselves! So please do like, comment, share to help the posts get seen - and add your own photos/videos to our Facebook feed, or use the tag #demidressagepolework Have fun! :D
Don't forget there are optional rosettes available to purchase for the Weekly Winter Workout series, priced from just £4, these are available in our shop now in a variety of colours!