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Polework & Gymnastic Jumping

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

This month’s webinar Wednesday with Gillian Higgins, Horses Inside Out was the final in the current series and was entitled Polework and Gymnastic Jumping. It is now available to view as a recorded webinar in the Horses Inside Out Academy.

This was one that a lots of followers of Horses Inside Out have been looking forward to as including Polework and Jumping into your horse’s routine can be so fun but it’s also great to know about all the benefits of the exercises to your horse’s body and indeed mind.


gillian higgins horses inside out Polework and Gymnastic Jumping online lecture with Gillian Higgins

Gillian began the webinar by explaining all the benefits of Polework and Gymnastic Jumping, these included:


· Increasing flexibility

· Increasing core strength

· Increasing muscle strength

· Improving ‘Hoof – Brain’ Co-ordination

· Improving balance

· Development of the horse’s ability to assess the challenge and react more quickly


gillian higgins horses inside out Muscular benefits of pole work with horses

This webinar builds on a previous webinar in the series – Poles for Posture


You can find out more about this webinar in one of my previous blogs and purchase a lifetime access to a recording of the webinar from the Horses Inside Out Academy which is FREE to join.


gillian higgins horses inside out academy link online learning opportunities lectures horse

The Poles for Posture webinar focused on exercises in walk and trot where as this webinar was focused more on exercises based in canter.


Gillian explains how including Polework and Gymnastic Jumping can be relevant to all horses no matter their discipline, bearing in mind their age and stage of training.


The webinar is divided into sections of Canter Pole and Gymnastic Jumping Exercises.

These are exercise for:


· Rhythm, Regularity and Adjustability

· Straightness

· Lateral Balance and Flexibility

· Strength and Power

· Reach and Scope

· Gymnastic Jumping Grids


I think this is a great idea as when looking at you own horse, you can assess in which area it is they need to improve and then select exercises that will help specifically with that. Meaning you can tailor your sessions to be most beneficial for the horse you are working with.


Before getting into the exercises Gillian gives a short biomechanical description of the canter using a video of one of her famous ‘painted horses’. This included incredible slow motion footage from Anatomy in Action. Explaining what should happen in the canter, what can often be seen in the canter and how the canter can change when using pole and jumping exercises and how we can use this to influence the way our horse is moving.


gillian higgins horses inside out equine skeleton, horse bones, canter, biomechanics Gillian Higgins, horses inside out

I like the description of each canter stride being a little bit like a ‘sit up’ as with each stride both the extensor chain of muscles and the flexor chain of muscles contract and also relax. Learn more about the muscle chains in Posture and Performance.


gillian higgins horses inside out painted horse extensor and flexor chains

The webinar includes a really useful video about pole distances and stride lengths which is something that lots of people get puzzled about. It’s a fab part of the content and is explained really simply but really well with Gillian’s horse Arty demonstrating what it looks like when distances are too long or too short for the horse – Thanks Gillian & Arty! This video is now included in the free tutorial video section of the Academy.


gillian higgins horses inside out a guide to walking distances showjumping -getting poles right!

We then get into seeing some of the exercises.


Some of the photographs Gillian uses to demonstrate were taken using a drone over her arena which I think is really cool as it gives you the perfect perspective of how the pole exercise should be laid out but looks better than a computer drawn diagram.


gillian higgins horses inside out adjustable canter exercise horse polework, equine gymnastic jumping grid, horses inside out

And then after seeing the aerial photograph of the exercise we get to see those actual poles or jumps demonstrated by a rider with Gillian annotating and explaining how the exercise influences the horse and why this is beneficial for the horse.


It’s interesting to watch the raised canter poles and as they get higher the transition of when the canter pole becomes a jump.


gillian higgins horses inside out biomechanics of jumping, raised canter poles, horse inside out, equine skeleton

Gillian includes a fantastic explanation of how the biomechanics of the canter changes when the poles get higher and how this has an effect on:


· The extensor chain of muscles

· The flexor chain of muscles

· The lumbosacral junction

· The reach of the hind limb

· The lift of the thorax


And how the contraction of the left and right sides of the body becomes more symmetrical when the horse is jumping as opposed to when they are in a normal canter stride.


This is very fascinating to watch and examine, especially if this is something you may have been previously unaware of.


gillian higgins horses inside out pogo stick hindlimb action at take off horse jumping. anatomy biomechanics, horses inside out. pogo stick

I am in danger of letting this blog get far too long as there is just so much information in this webinar, not just exercises you can do but in depth explanations of why they are beneficial.


Something I feel that Gillian can demonstrate so much more effectively than most professionals, as she has such amazing resources available including so much video content of her painted horse demonstrations.


 anatomy of jumping, horse, biomechanics, exercises for developing strength and gillian higgins horses inside out

Even if you do not enjoy riding your horse over jumps, these exercises can also be performed on the lunge or loose schooling. So you horse can still benefit from this!


As I mentioned this was the last in the current series of webinars.


If you have been following my blog you will see that I have been involved recently with some filming days with Gillian and the Horses Inside Out team up at Horses Inside Out HQ. These days have been in preparation for the next series of ‘Webinar Wednesdays’ which will begin in September.


So don’t forget to book those dates into your diary, you might even get to see my guest appearances in the videos! Ha!


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