#poleworkforponies The Christmas Tree

Firstly, apologies for the lack of #trainingtips and #poleworkforponies blog posts this year - it was my intention to do a monthly blog post with some of our favourite polework exercises but the year ran away with me, so it has become a New Year's Resolution (one of many ;) ) for 2022 instead! All our polework exercises are ridden by MiniD (8 years old) on either Tangle (11.3hh) or Maisie (14hh), so if you have found that many of the polework layouts available online are more geared towards older/more experienced riders and/or bigger horses then perhaps you will find our posts helpful for your young riders and their ponies :)

I hope you will enjoy this festive offering. This layout is super simple to set up, and you only need 6 poles (the 4 poles at the bottom add to the exercise by creating a standard line of 3 trot poles which can help some ponies get going with the triangle, but they were mostly for aesthetics as we felt our tree needed a 'pot' or 'trunk'!) The raised poles on the sides were just to make it more interesting - but they did cause experienced ex-showjumper Maisie to have a good look the first time she approached!

I have in the past built much bigger trees with more poles, but due to an arm injury this was all I was willing to drag out, and I hope it will cater for those of you with only a limited number of poles.

In the video clips of #minidandtangle you will see we used the exercise as an excellent tool for working on those all-important straight centre lines. (And in fact I have so many polework layouts for this particular theme that I may well have to dedicate the first part of next year to Perfecting Centre Lines - pretty important for dressage after all!)

It is easier for the ponies to enter on the 'flat' side of the triangle (as shown in the first two sections of the video) to begin with - this way the poles themselves help 'funnel' them out of the triangle over the point.

Once they are established going in this direction (orange line), try making it harder by coming down over the poles from the 'top' of the tree (I meant to add two yellow pods as 'stars' either side of the point to help guide the pony in - but as you can see in the videos MiniD is able to hold a straight line and Tangle is not worried about approaching a triangle of poles from this direction. If you have a young or inexperienced pony and/or rider, make it easier by only using one triangle to begin with so as not to overface them). This is a fantastic exercise for demanding straight and accurate riding because most ponies will want to sidestep out through the shoulder slightly to go over a single part of the pole rather than the apex of two where they meet.

With Maisie, who is much more established in canter than Tangle is, we moved on to riding up and out of the top of the tree to the far end of the arena, picking up canter (yellow lines) either left or right in the top corner. Canter down the long side until just before B or E, and then ride a 20m half circle over the bottom triangle on a *curving* line. The triangle allows for different lengths of canter strides by varying at which point (use the stripes!) you ride over the poles, and you should effectively ride a canter-bounce stride over the pair of them.

You can ride circles - not shown on the diagram - at the empty end of the school using the top triangle of the tree as another practice for riding a curving line over poles. This is a great exercise for suppleness as well as rider accuracy.

You can also use one or both triangles to ride figures of eight (red lines) over the triangles - for this exercise you will enter the triangle on the flat side on one rein, and over the the point of the triangle on the other. It's another good one for suppleness, combined with accuracy and straightness over the pole triangles.

I wish you all a very 'happy holidays', and hope you will enjoy using this fun themed layout over the festive season!

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