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Trotting Into 2021!

So those on Facebook will have already seen the video to accompany this blog, but I'm running a little bit behind with a lot of things so far this year! I decided as well as the #trainingtip blogs, I would also try to write about #minidandtangle's regular polework sessions as then I can easily share the layout diagrams we used (they will continue to be shared as videos on the Facebook page too). Hopefully they will give you some ideas especially if you're stuck in the school in these long winter months! There are lots of polework ideas to be found online these days, but not all of them are suitable for children on ponies - obviously that will be our main focus here!

The "2021" layout used 18 poles - all my poles are 10ft Polyjumps 'Pro' poles, and I find the distances created by this length works well for the majority of ponies. MiniD also got some cute little 4ft rainbow poles for Christmas, so as you can see in the video we used those too on the '1' - these are optional and just add to the look of the layout!

We started by warming up using the gaps between the numbers to create a mini serpentine. This was done in walk, with emphasis on bending round the curves, and using the poles to guide the straightness in between. I later rode this same pattern on my 15hh green young horse, again in walk.

The "2021" isn't to scale (it's too big!) or in quite the right place in my arena diagram here, but in reality, we then moved on to riding a three loop serpentine from A/C using both of the '2' figures. We did this first in walk and then in trot - and again this was an exercise that worked equally well for MiniD and Tangle (12hh), and later myself and my 15hh youngster.

After that, we worked on straightness down the length of the school - perfect for practising those centre lines. Obviously due to the nature of this pattern, we weren't riding ON the centre line, but the principles of a good turn and staying straight for the length of the arena remained the same. We did this both top and bottom of the pattern, from both reins. The poles were set so that there was a single trot step between the two poles where the '2' and the '0' were next to each other - all my ponies coped fine with this gap but if you have a pony who is unsure it would be best to widen this spacing to a double trot stride so that they don't get confused and try to jump both poles! If you have a pony who might find the amount of poles and the length of this line overwhelming at first, start by going over the '2's as shown by the red lines in the diagram after this one as your first 'going over poles' exercise - but as the poles are fairly spread out, most should cope fine as long as ridden positively and straight!

You can see how we linked both lines together by changing the rein from E to B, in the video at the end. You can also ride this from both directions.

MiniD usually shares her polework lesson with my older sharer on Maisie (14hh). Maisie went on to do some work in canter over the '2's (I find a 10ft pole distance works perfectly as a canter stride/bounce for most 14 - 15hh ponies/small horses). MiniD wasn't able to maintain Tangle's canter sufficiently on the turns to manage this part of the exercise (red lines) however she rode it in trot as per the earlier serpentines, and cantered large around the arena after each set of poles.

To keep the canter work achievable for a fairly novice rider, we used the '2' nearest C to come in canter from A on the left rein (turning left back to A) and the '2' nearest A to come in canter from C on the right rein.

Later on, I rode the orange diagonal lines on my horse, which was an interesting test of accuracy to hit the corners of the '0' in a rectangle rather than the pole square shape I have previously used (see previous #trainingtip blogs for the Pole Square 1 and 2 posts!) It layered up very nicely to include some simple canter work by adding in a transition just before hitting the track after exiting the poles in a kind of figure-8 shape, coming back to trot to change the rein over the poles each time.

This layout was incredibly fun, and not as time-consuming to set up as you'd expect. I started with the '0', as that was the easiest to orientate, and built it around there. Obviously it does require a large number of poles (don't worry, most of the blogs in this #poleworkforponies series will use less to keep them accessible for as many of you as possible!) but it was worth it for the variety it offered three very different combinations, and definitely very engaging for both my young riders!

Watch some of the clips from MiniD's session here:

I hope you will enjoy the extra detail in these polework blogs to accompany our Facebook videos... And once again, a very happy new year to all our readers/followers and of course riders!

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