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Polework and jumping

Polework is a great way to improve balance, working the back, improving rhythm and co-ordination, as well as providing interest.

Carefully introduce your horse to poles in walk as it is likely he won’t have seen them before. Just because your horse is raced in National Hunt (NH) races doesn’t mean to say he will happily walk straight over a pole on the ground, especially a coloured one. Poles can be laid in straight lines or in a fan.

Always start off with a single pole and let your horse walk and trot over it before adding a second pole.

Some horses will happily negotiate one pole sensibly but when a second one is added jump the two together. This can be corrected by either placing the poles two stride lengths apart (so your horse takes a stride between poles) or by turning in much shorter so you have just two or three strides before negotiating the poles.


Introducing jumping should be done with care; if you haven’t taught a horse to jump before seek advice. Contrary to popular belief horses raced on the flat are easier to teach to jump than teaching a NH horse to jump correctly. This is because the NH horse is taught to flatten over a fence and of course he is used to approaching an obstacle at speed and continuing with that speed on the other side as well a continuing in a straight line, not looking to make a turn to the next fence.

Loose-jumping is a great way to teach the former racehorse the correct technique.

Loose-jumping is a great way to teach the former racehorse the correct technique.

Remain in trot until you have control both before and after a jump. The slower pace gives the horse chance to see what he is to jump rather than rushing blindly.

Competitive jumping is not for everyone or every horse but a bit of jumping at home not only adds variety to your training programme and is fun, it is of benefit because different muscles are used. It is how a jump is built, not how high it is which teaches a horse how to jump correctly and accurately.

The simplest way to introduce jumping is as a follow-on from pole work replacing the last pole with a small cross pole.