Are you always resetting ground poles for different gaits and stride lengths? Maybe you can stay in the saddle next time! Here’s a quick tip from Eitan Beth-Halachmy, founder of Cowboy Dressage™, and co-author of the new book DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY with Dr. Jenni Grimmett:
Working the horse over ground poles can aid in teaching the horse to lengthen and shorten his stride. Note that in Cowboy Dressage, the distance between the ground poles never changes. The poles are always 3 feet apart, whether the horse is walking or jogging through the poles. For some horses to properly step evenly through these poles at the walk, they will have to lengthen their stride, while others will have to shorten it. The same applies to the jog. The horse (with support from the rider) then learns to adjust his stride accordingly to navigate the ground poles.
If the horse is “splitting” his stride over the ground poles rather than shortening and lengthening, it will interfere with his natural cadence and rhythm, causing him to strike the poles with his feet. Through repetition, the horse can learn to adjust his stride to cleanly carry himself over the poles at the free walk, for example. You can assist him by guiding him down the middle of the poles rather than drifting across the poles at random places. This assures that the strides must remain consistent through each pass. You can also help the horse to place his feet so that his steps completely pass over the poles rather than landing on top of them, which causes the horse to either jump the poles or trip.
As the horse approaches the ground poles, guide him directly to the center of the first pole. Make slight contact through the reins to tell the horse to place the front foot just in front of the first pole. Then release the horse to ride forward over the remaining poles, lengthening the stride. If the horse doesn’t lengthen the stride to carry himself over the poles, he will take two steps between the poles and the cadence of the gait will be altered.
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