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Four Weeks, Four Poles - Week 1!

Hi, and welcome to our new Weekly Winter Workouts – a mini-series of 12 polework exercises you can use to inspire your winter schooling!

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 overface 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!)

Kicking off November with our ‘Four Poles, Four Weeks’ theme, we have our ‘ladder’ layout (I don’t name all the layouts, by the way. Sometimes they just name themselves for easy reference in my head..!)

This is such a simple layout, both to set up and use, but it packs a big bunch. I like to use double-spaced poles (seen later in the video) most of the time. They’re quick to set up (three of my ‘big strides’ between them – please see my note on striding posted in the Event info yesterday) essentially they are double trot pole distance, and therefore can be used for walk, trot and canter! I’ve also made use of our Kublox ‘StarBlox’ to help stabilise the poles in some of our sessions – these are particularly useful if you are schooling alone as the poles won’t move so easily if tapped.

Choose your ladder according to your pony and rider’s competence and experience. Tangle is hugely proficient in polework in walk and trot, but has limited experience cantering over poles (see how forgiving the double spaced ladder is in the video clip!) MiniD is reasonably competent and understands how to hold a straight line before and over the poles. For them, the trot poles and even the ascending raised trot poles (hard..!!) were pretty straightforward. Be careful with raised poles – they’re a big ask for a lot of ponies in terms of effort/fitness required. Start with them flat, and raise them one at a time, maybe over a period of a few sessions. You can see in the ‘Hard!’ version of raised poles, we have used our StarBlox to incrementally increase the height of each pole in an ascending pattern – this is a great way to simulate hillwork if you are limited in your hacking, but please be cautious as this is a tough exercise that I wouldn’t attempt until the pony and rider are comfortably tackling ordinary ground poles, and then raised poles all at the same height. The StarBlox offer a very slight increase for each pole, which is perfect (you can see for the last one, it was too high to have it on top of the block, so we just raised one end to make it easier for them both).

For Maisie, who MiniD is just getting to grips with, we stuck to walk poles* and standard ground trot poles, but added in transitions before and after the poles. The transitions helped to work Maisie’s hind end, and gave MiniD something to think about with the timing of her aids and Maisie’s responsiveness, as well as practising keeping her transitions straight. This helped her to ride positively and forget about her nerves on a bigger/different pony. Obviously the distance between the single-spaced poles needed adjusting depending on whether she was walking over them or trotting over them – luckily MiniD has muggins here on hand to help with that sort of thing!

*We have been building Maisie up from four poles to six so please excuse that a couple of the clips with her show an extra couple of poles!

MiniD has worked really hard on canter poles with Tangle over the past year. A year ago, they struggled to maintain canter over a single pole (Tangle doesn’t have a particularly balanced natural canter…) It has taken several months, but they are now able to canter over the line of four – not every time, as you can see in the video! Note that Tangle does not lose confidence when mistakes like this happen – some ponies will, so again, build up the exercises according to your own pony and rider, and remember that most young children are not yet capable of influencing the pony to help them out or improve them, so it is imperative that the work is comfortable and easy for the pony so that they do not lose confidence or get sour in their work. Again, this is a reason I like the double-spaced poles, as they are pretty forgiving when things go wrong, and allow for mistakes to be made, e.g. if the trot is not active enough, the pony can simply put three trot steps in instead of two.

MiniD and Tangle have gained so much confidence with the canter pole work we have done over the past year, that MiniD has even started to enjoy the odd little jump! Gridwork is beyond the remit of this polework mini-series, but a line of four canter poles is in itself essentially a mini grid, and as you can see in the final clip of the video, the pole raised into a jump at the end gave very little issue to either of them <3

The layout diagram for this week is pretty self-explanatory, but I'll include it anyway!

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 :D

There will be optional rosettes available to purchase on our website for the Weekly Winter Workout series, but unfortunately they haven't arrived yet!

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