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Cavaletti Exercises to Improve Your Horse's Balance and Strength

Cavaletti - 8-10 foot long poles that are (usually) attached to cross-shaped stands on both sides. This cross shape allows the height of the bars to vary depending on the rotation.

At their lowest point, the cavaletti will rest on or just barely above the ground. At the highest point, most cavaletti are only about 12 to 15 inches high.

Don't have cavaletti at your barn? No worries! Ground poles work JUST fine!

Why ride with cavaletti?

Working with cavaletti or ground poles will help improve your horse's balance and will help strengthen his topline and hind end. And it's fun! The horse is encouraged to think for itself and face new challenges. Most horses are happy about these tasks and begin to step off more actively. Variety is the spice of life, after all!

How to set up cavaletti correctly -->

  • Walk poles: 2.5 to 3 feet apart

  • Trot poles: 4 feet apart

  • Canter poles: 9 to 11 feet apart

Note: These distances are approximate for an average horse stride. You may need to adjust if your horse is bigger or smaller than average.

Basic Cavaletti Exercises

Is your horse new to working over poles? Start with a simple straight line. Place two poles in a row. Space them for walk first, then trot, then canter. When your horse can easily carry himself over two poles, add a third... and then a fourth!

To "Plus Up" the level of difficulty, place your poles on a circle. Start with two poles: one poll at 12:00 and one at 6:00. When your horse feels confident moving over the poles on a bending line, add two more poles: one at 3:00 and one at 9:00. Bonus points if your horse can keep the same number of strides between each of the poles as they move on the circle.

Just for fun! Place several poles around the arena. Spacing and distance don't matter for this one. Be random! Develop a working trot and ride around the arena, making various turns and loops to cross the poles. Look up, plan ahead, and have fun!

Level Up Cavaletti Exercises

Trot poles to help develop engagement on smaller circles:

Place three or four poles following a 10 meter circle (using the corner of the arena as pictured will help with pole placement). Begin by trotting straight into your poles in the corner. Follow the curve of the circle and the poles. Then continue the 10 meter half circle and change direction, as pictured. Approach poles in the oppostite corner in the same manner. You'll end up riding an "ice cream cone" shape, just like First Level Test 1!

To improve your trot lengthenings...

Place three to four poles at four feet apart (or maybe a little more... big trot!). Then place one more poll three times farther away (three strides). Try to maintain the "big trot" your horse develops at the start of the poles throughout the empty space before the final pole. Pay attention to the trot rhythm and count your strides!

Bonus Exercise

This one is tough...

For this exercise, we're going to do "rapid fire" trot/canter transitions. Before you attempt this one, make sure your horse has a pretty solid canter understanding of the trot/canter transition.

If you and your horse have a pretty confident trot/canter transition under "normal" circumstances, you can build a combination of trot and canter cavaletti on a big circle. For example, three trot poles on one side of the circle and one single canter pole on the opposite side of the circle. When that feels easy, add two, then three canter poles on the opposite side of the circle. This sequence is for really advanced riders!

Give these exercises a go! Be sure to tell me in the comments what you think!

Want more cavaletti exercises? I'll send them directly to you! Shoot me a message HERE!

Need an extra set of "eyes on the ground" to give you solid feedback on your riding? Want a training plan with cavaletti exercises that have been customized for YOU? Contact me HERE! I do both online and in person coaching. Let me help you and your horse with a CUSTOM training plan!

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