Western Dressage Exercise – Off-Set Figure 8 Over Poles

Western Dressage Exercise of the WeekWhen executed at the beginning of your ride, concentric circles help open the horse’s back. This means, they release stored up tension or restriction in the small sub-surface muscles that stabilize the spine. Releasing tension patterns here before the horse is fully warmed up and utilizing his larger back muscles produces more significant results. Once restriction is released through the horse’s back, his longissimus dorsi—a prime muscle for propulsion and movement—can transmit energy forward from the hind end to the front end more smoothly and with suppleness. This energy does not encounter rigidity along the way, allowing the rider to generate and capture more power from the horse’s hind legs without resulting in tension. The use of ground poles here, as in many of my exercises, assists by loosening the horse’s pectoral muscles and the thoracic sling of soft tissue support that creates buoyancy in his stride.

How do to this:

  1. Place two poles on the ground parallel to each other 15 meters apart.
  2. Begin by riding in a walk on light contact over both poles. Be sure to create a lively, marching one that feels like your horse is swinging through his back.
  3. After crossing the second pole, make a small bend/turn to the left.
  4. Ride a small half circle to cross over the first pole in the opposite direction you just came from.
  5. Then bend/turn to the right and loop back around to the second pole.
  6. Continue riding a figure of 8 pattern like this. Be sure your horse maintains energy over the poles, no slowing down.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2013

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