Many horse riders may be wondering how top riders get their horses to strut smartly with consummate ease. One scientist explains how this is possible. It is one exercise and not difficult for a rider and their horse to master.
It is simply known as the pole work exercise. This exercise requires horse and rider to navigate a customized maze.
The equine scientist behind this pole jumping exercise is Fizz (Felicity) Marshall. She is Hartpury College’s equine therapy manager and has an MA in equine business management and a BSc (Hons) in equine science. Marshall has years of experience working with competition horses across all disciplines.
The Pole Work Exercise
The exercise improves the horse’s ability to walk or trot upright. It also improves the horse’s posture. Like any other exercise, pole work exercises require discipline from both horse and rider.
Equine scientist, Fizz Marshall was asked to explain her methodology in applying the so-called maze pole work exercise. It is similar to obstacle course constructions used during showjumping events.
The pole work exercise is deliberately set up as a maze. Six poles are divided into two C-shapes. Each pole is twelve feet long.
While riding, the jockey varies the horse’s movements. It can ride through the maze at a trot or canter. Horse and rider can navigate the course in a straight line, at angles or turns.
What the Maze Does for the Horse
Of course, rigid mobility and straightforward discipline are not the only benefits of maze-training horses. One trainer remarks that through continuous learning the horse’s courage improves over time. It also teaches the horse to trust its rider.
Apart from what Fizz Marshall has already suggested, the maze training technique is applied to other forms of exercise as well. Lastly, it teaches both horse and rider the art of patience, a winning ingredient for sporting success.
Training Tips from the Greats
Most of the top competitive riders credit discipline and motivation for their success. Olympic dressage team gold medalist, Laura Tomlinson has a can-do attitude which applies equally to the horses she rides. Irish show jumper, Trevor Breen adds a typical ingredient of sheer hard work to his training philosophy.
Gemma Tattersall, a British event rider, believes in consistency. She poignantly mentioned that her mother taught her to train daily. Such discipline and regular training, of course, benefits the horse as well.
Helping Horse and Rider
Fizz Marshall explains that the exercise helps to improve what is known in equine science as core stability and proprioception in horses. Apart from improving the horse’s posture, the exercise improves the animal’s suppleness and ability to easily navigate obstacle courses used in show jumping and cross-country events. It teaches and trains horses control and the ability to move forward one step at a time.
While sporting success may be the rider’s primary motivation, maze training for horses benefits the equine species in the sense that it keeps them mentally and physically healthy.