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Poles for Posture

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

The benefits of polework are often underrated! Incorporating this type of work into your horse's training schedule is an excellent way to maintain and improve posture, as well as contributing to a healthy, mobile, fully functioning musculoskeletal system.


Gillian Higgins explains in this short article just how powerful working your horse over poles can be and how to do it effectively.

Horses inside out biomechanics of pole work, anatomy, skeletal movement, trot poles

The Benefits of Pole Work

Appropriate pole exercises encourage your horse to move his body without the need to use a training aid that will just strap him down!!


Training in a good posture requires forethought. You need to give the horse time to work the exercise out, to prepare and then use his body. With repetition of the exercise comes anticipation and with this comes better postural preparation for the exercise. Using the right exercise that instigates the right posture can massively improve core muscle toning. The key is to have the right exercise to stimulate each individual horse’s weaknesses.


Posture is sometimes seen as something static - however this is not the case. What is the right posture in one moment may not be the right posture for the next.


In the webinar Poles for Posture this is something we go into in much greater detail. You can purchase lifetime access to the recording HERE.



Try this exercise: The power of walk poles

One of my favourite exercises is to use a series of walk poles and raised walk poles. Here's a short video explaining how to get the best from this exercise.

To see more tutorial videos like this join our Academy (It's free to join!)



A word on distances

· Remember every horse is different so be prepared to adjust!

· Observe how the horse copes and adjust accordingly (either the size of the gait or the distance).

· Generally if poles are raised the distances will need to be shorter.


what is the correct distance for my horse - poles and jumping

Ideally always have someone on the ground to give feedback and tweak distances as required.


If you are unsure about distances check out the video guide to walking distances in our Academy.



Starting a horse over poles

For best results with these exercises it is important that the horse is confident and relaxed walking over individual poles to start with. This may take some time and patience.

Here are some suggestions to achieve this:-

  • Lead your horse from the ground over the pole.

  • Consider having an experienced horse to give you a lead.

  • If possible put poles in your horse's turnout area so he becomes used to them and lead him over the poles everyday to and from the field so it just becomes 'normal'.

  • Practice different approaches, short and long and oblique angle approaches as well as straight ones.


Which Exercise is best for my horse?

You really need to have a clear idea of what you would like to achieve with your horse and the biomechanical effects of each individual exercise. Tweaking the distance, orientation or height of the poles can have a significant effect on how the horse moves through the exercise.


There are so many different pole work exercises to try out with your horse. In my first 2-hour + webinar on Poles for Posture I cover a comprehensive variety of pole configurations for walk and trot only, this includes exercises for improving straightness, lateral suppleness and stability. Using slow motion videos of anatomically painted horses, this webinar focusses on the biomechanical effects of polework exercises and helps you to assess how your horse moves.


My second 2-hour+ webinar 'Polework and Gymnastic Jumping' includes more pole configurations and exercises that can be performed in canter too.


If you'd like to learn more about Polework exercises check out Gillian's webinar Poles for Posture HERE.




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