How using ground Poles Can Help Your Horse

How the use of ground poles in your horse's daily routine can help improve their movement, spatial awareness and body condition.

Gavin Crosbie

10/21/20221 min read

You might have wondered why ground poles often feature in equine rehabilitation and training programmes.

If you have ever been a member of a gym, started an exercise programme or fitness class you know that you have to start small and gradually build up and then you feel the wellbeing benefit of exercise which outweighs the aching muscles. If you take it too quickly you get discouraged, risk injury and before you know it your gym membership has lapsed, and your exercise class is a distant memory – until the next time you join one!

Well, it is like this doing pole and cavaletti work with horses. A good starting point is the poles laid flat in a parallel arrangement a stride length apart (about 80-90cms) on surface that is not too hard. The horse is walked over the poles and at first they might knock one or two poles as they may not quite have coordinated the visual and motor skills to raise their leg and hoof sufficiently but after a few goes they will have learnt to elevate their hooves sufficiently and alter their stride to clear the poles and place their hooves between them. This exercise will increase the flexion of every limb joint, improve the range of joint motion, improve core stability and engage the hind quarters. It has also been found to improve proprioception, neuromotor control and stride length.

The exercise can be progressed by raising the ground poles slightly which requires the horse to increase the flexion of limb joints further and shorten the stride length to clear the poles when walking over them. The number of poles can be increased and further raised but no more than 50cms, and the horse can progress to trot and canter.

The poles can be arranged in a variety of ways from random to circles, squares and patterns depending on the nature and site of an injury and the treatment purpose or the training programme specific to the discipline of the athletic horse. For example, a focus on changing the stride length for a dressage horse and for the early stages of training the joint flexion and proprioception of a showjumber.

Like us, starting small and progressing gradually with regular sessions will contribute to a successful rehabilitation of the horse and will train specific skills and maintain fitness for an athletic horse.