Western Dressage Exercise – Cavalletti Climb and Stretch

Think of this week’s exercise as a tune-up of your horse’s motor, his hindquarters. This fun and challenging pattern strengthens and stretches his lower lumbar region, those muscles in his loins required to tuck his pelvis. It also increases flexion and strength of his quadriceps, which leads to more stability in stifle and hock joints. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that when I talk about building strength, I am always talking equally about increasing suppleness, too. A balanced athlete needs both brawn and elasticity.

This exercise is one of my absolute favorites because of what it delivers to the Western Dressage horse: adjustability. Exercises like the following that require the horse to change his stride length and height always improve a horse’s body mechanics and rideability. They create a horse that is highly maneuverable and can rapidly but smoothly either collect or extend his gaits, or stop and spin, or anything else you ask. And he is able to do all this without flinging his head up for balance or tilting over sideways like a motorcycle.

cavaletti-exerciseFor most Western horses the comfortable distance between cavalletti is around 3 to 3.5 feet for jogging Adjust as necessary for longer or shorter stride horses as your starting point.

  1. You need two rows of cavalletti to make the Climb and Stretch exercise. Follow the diagram below.
  2. The first row consists of four cavalletti set approx… 4 inches shorter than your horse’s regular comfortable jog stride (for most horses, this measurement will be just under 3 feet) and raised 6-8 inches off the ground.
  3. Arrange the second row with three cavalletti resting on the ground, set far enough apart that your horse has to reach beyond his regular length of jog stride (this measurement should be between 3.5 to 4 feet).
  4. Now mount up and ride through this fun pattern.
  5. The key component is that you do NOT change tempos when going over the different spaced poles. With the poles, you are asking your horse to change stride lengths and heights but NOT SPEED.

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


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