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Four Poles, Four Weeks - Week 2!

Welcome back to our Weekly Winter Workouts - a 12-week series of mini polework ideas to inspire you over the winter! MiniD and I have worked hard to pull together some of our favourite polework exercises, which we hope will increase in difficulty as the weeks go by, and also give you some ideas to adapt to your own needs over the winter. We start off pretty simply with ‘Four Poles, Four Weeks’ – each of the November exercises uses just four poles* and are quick and easy to set up, as well as being very adaptable for different needs and abilities. You’ll probably have come across many of the layouts before, but we have tried to bring them to you in a child-friendly way. As always, our Demi Dressage ethos is to promote confidence and fun, so we have tried to choose 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!)

Week 2 is a variation of a Pole Square - one of my favourite layouts. I often use the small pole square rotated a quarter turn into a diamond - and that's what we've done here. We've then rolled the poles out to make what I'm calling an Expanded Pole Diamond (I did say they won't all have catchy names..!)

There are an awful lot of exercises you can do with this layout - we decided to focus on a mix of straight line exercises and bendy/curving line exercises in our video, but this is definitely a layout you could leave set up for a couple of weeks if you're able to, and not get bored.

We started with a simple figure of eight over the poles. You can go from letter to letter if you like, but we were mostly working off the track for this video (as you can see, our arena was pretty wet and the track suffers the most!) This exercise is a great pattern that works both reins evenly as well as working on both straight lines (over the poles) and smooth curves (around the ends).

Straight lines and curves on a figure of eight

MiniD then rode an oval riding a straight line (red line, below) over each pair of poles on the same side of the arena, with a half circle at each end. This is a *super* exercise for testing straightness as you have to work hard to hold your line over the angled poles. Crossing the poles on an angle encourages your pony to open up a little more from the shoulder - good for those short-striding ponies. Several of our later exercises in the series will involve riding over an angled pole, so this is a brilliant introduction as the poles are spaced enough apart for it not to be confusing. If your pony/child have only ridden over straight poles (such as in our Ladder exercise last week) then introduce this in walk - remember it is SO important to hold that perfect straight line!

Once we'd tested the straightness it was time to get some bendy action going (orange lines, below). Again, you might find it helpful (especially if you plan to enter our May 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' dressage tests) to ride from the markers in a full shallow loop, but MiniD rode a smaller hourglass figure here. As always, start in walk to establish the line - we filmed everything in trot to stop the video from ending up too long but we worked in both paces for all exercises.

You need to remember to ride the hourglass pattern on both reins to be even, but it's a lovely exercise for introducing those curving shallow loop shapes and encouraging the rider to plan and hold an ever-changing line. Because we were working in a smaller area of the school, this was the first time MiniD has ridden the condensed hourglass shape, and it was really good to get her to think about where and how she was riding - something that is increasingly important as she moves up from self-sufficient Tangle to needs-a-hand-holding Maisie!

Suppleness is particularly important for old ponies like Maisie, and so by adding in circles at the ends over the poles we were able to continue with that emphasis on bend. Again, the poles in a slightly unusual place on a circle encouraged MiniD to think about where her circle path needed to be. This is an excellent exercise in walk for getting your horse to lift through their core. You can combine the circle at each end into the hourglass shape (which we did do, but didn't film), or even the figure of eight exercise at the beginning. NB. I would definitely lose marks for my egg-shaped circles in this diagram..!!

Straight and bendy lines - so many options!

To set up this layout, it's easiest to place your poles touching at the ends in a small diamond shape (grey poles) and then roll them out however many strides you want to to get your bigger diamond (orange poles). I didn't do this :doh: and had to 'fettle' a lot to get the poles lined up both ways - whoops!

Setting up the pole diamond

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 - and add your own photos/videos to our Facebook feed, or use the tag #demidressagepolework Have fun! :D

There are optional rosettes available to purchase for the Weekly Winter Workout series, these will be available in our shop very soon!

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