Riding Skills: Setting trot poles

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Question Category: Riding Skills

Question: When trotting over a series of (say five) ground poles, what is the measured distance the poles should be apart? What about a canter? I have a Thoroughbred mare, 16.2H, and I’m starting her on a little groundwork. I’ve done the ground poles as mentioned above in the past and I thought it would be a great exercise, only when I went to set it up in the arena, I totally forgot how far apart the poles need to be! Can you help?

Answer: Trotting poles are an average of 4 to 4 1/2 feet apart, depending on the stride of the horse. If you are working in a group setting with many different sized horses, you’ll just have to watch them and adjust them to the average distance. If you are working only your 16.2 hand horse, you will probably go with the 4 1/2 foot distance.

Canter poles may be spaced anywhere from 9 to 12 feet, again depending on the horse and also on how forward the horse is moving and what comes after the canter poles. I would try about 10 feet first and then adjust accordingly.

Where and how you place the poles may depend on your purpose in setting ground poles in the first place. If your intention is to get the horse to pay attention to his feet and adjust his stride, you may want to vary the distance. If you are working on the rider’s ability to judge distances and set the horse up properly, the specific distances, based on the horse’s stride may be in order.

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