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Four Poles, Four Weeks - Week 3!

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!)

It's all about the circles with this layout, and by using the poles to mark the four quarter points, your riders will improve the accuracy of their circles without even realising they are working on it!

This is an easy layout to set up, with a single pole set at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock on a circle. I tend to lay mine out so that they are a pony's width in from the track, so you can ride a normal 20m circle round the outside edge of the poles, and then circles over the poles themselves are slightly smaller. We used our Kublox on the inside ends of the poles, not so much to raise them but to provide stability if they get knocked.

Start by riding circles over the poles - striped poles are a huge bonus for young riders here! If you don't have striped poles, try using a bit of vetrap or some sort of coloured tape to at least mark the centre of the pole, but you'll get more out of this exercise of your poles have three or more stripes/marks.

Get your young rider to pick a stripe (the middle is the easiest) and stick to it round the whole circle! Easier said than done on some ponies - many will fall in or out, so this is a great exercise to really get the rider channelling their pony through their legs and reins round the *whole* circle, with easy feedback when they're not - literally - on the right path!

When they can comfortably maintain the circle round the middle of the poles, vary the circle size by coming in or out along the poles to a different stripe.

We filmed almost all our clips in trot, but obviously you can walk as well. For a real challenge you can canter - more on that in a tick!

For nervous riders, you can encourage them to count the steps (walk - we counted the inside foreleg hitting the ground) or strides (trot - count each 'down' or each 'up', one whole 'up-down' is a trot stride) between each poles. You should get the same - or very similar - in each quarter. If it's wildly different, check the circle path - are they drifting in (smaller circle = less steps) or out (bigger circle = more steps) or has their chosen pace got bigger/smaller? By getting the rider to count, they have something to focus on to divert them from any nerves - particularly useful if they are riding a new horse, such as MiniD on Pandora here.

You can use the gaps between the poles to ride transitions - trot to walk, walk to trot. Vary where you do them round the circle (despite filming on two different days, the usable clips I got showed the walk/trot transitions in the same place..!) This is a very useful exercise for focusing the rider and getting them to plan ahead for their transitions, with reasonable leeway for accuracy.

For riders really up for a challenge, try it in canter. Note - this looks easy, but to ride well, it is HARD! You can see that MiniD and Maisie didn't get the right stride to each pole - the pole should come in the middle of the canter stride, i.e neatly between front and hind legs, as if it were a jump. We'll forgive them, as this was MiniD's first time cantering a pole circle! (And it took me half an hour to persuade her she could do it, she had built it up to be something 'too scary' as she's only just consistently building in circles in canter into her schooling... she rode it and loved it - kids...!!!)

For budding showjumpers out there, cantering poles on a circle like this is the most wonderful foundation training for getting a good canter rhythm and determining/adjusting a stride, all without over-taxing your pony with too many jumping efforts.

Whatever you do with your clock circle, most of all, as always, have fun!

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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