Western Dressage Exercise – Ground Pole Square

Most dressage exercises aim towards an elusively perfect execution, but sometimes when developing the horse’s way of moving we need to let things get a little messy. We need to create gaits that move smoothly through his body and choose patterns that cause our horses to be accountable for their own balance. By asking a horse to think on his feet like this, we help him dissolve restrictions and stiffness that limit most riding horses.

The horse then gains agility and better symmetry between both sides of his body. Especially for horses needing to undo long-standing postural habits, change can happen quickly with exercises like this Ground Pole Square.  The quick adjustments of balance in this pattern mean that your horse will recruit muscles at varying rates of speed and intensity. This prevents him from plodding along with gaits that are stuck in one particular gear. It shakes things up a little, encouraging him to release tension in his back and thereby promote more flexion in the hind legs. The bottom line is that this simple pattern helps the horse use his whole structure better and the ground poles help him develop flexion in the hind joints, a precursor to correct flexion.

GroundPole-Fig3bAfter you have ridden the suggested routine, go ahead and get imaginative. Challenge yourself to use the square as creatively as possible.

Lie four 8-foot ground poles on the ground to make a square, the ends of the ground poles should be touching at each corner.

  1. Begin by walking or trotting through the middle of the box, making it the center of an elongated figure of eight.
  2. Check your positioning each time you pass through; be sure you are in the center and not sneaking out to the edges.
  3. Now, shift your figure of eight, so that you are circling around each corner of the box.
  4. Now turn on your creativity and see how many different figures you can make by using the box.  For example, you can ride through the box on a diagonal from corner to corner. Or you could trot into the box, halt, and then turn on the forehand and trot back out of the box. Can you transition between gaits while using a pattern with the box? Have fun, see what you come up with.

Check points for success:

–Above all, do not obsess about where your horse’s head is positioned. At first, he may not be perfectly on the bit; his frame might bobble when you begin the pattern. Do not despair. Remember that the purpose is to teach him to re-organize himself.

— Just as in the first exercise of this article, you will need to think about steering the horse with your outside leg and guiding his withers, rather than his head, where you want to go.

— Be sure to maintain rein contact when crossing the poles. Many riders tend to push their reins away and abandon their connection with the horse. To help his topline stay rounded, keep a soft feel with your contact.

— See if you can figure out the most suitable challenge for you and your horse using the box pattern. Can you add transitions of gait as you approach and leave the box, or how about when you are in the middle of it? Can you create and control several different speeds of walk, trot, and canter patterns that cross through the box?

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




6 Responses to “Western Dressage Exercise – Ground Pole Square

  • Karen Nye
    5 years ago

    I’m not getting the pictures referenced in this article, so not quite understanding how you are explaining to ride it. Can you re-post with the figures referenced?

    • DMD-Admin
      5 years ago

      The referenced images are not available as they are copyrighted under the 101 Western Dressage Mobile App. I can ask Jec Ballou if she could draw the figures out and then I could scan them as PDF files for download. Sorry about the confusion.

      • Kelly Sullivan
        5 years ago

        Were you able to Ask Jec Ballou if you could post the pattern?

      • DMD-Admin
        5 years ago

        I did ask her… she has not replied yet. Thanks for the reminder as I will follow up again.

      • DMD-Admin
        5 years ago

        New Diagram uploaded for this exercise.

    • DMD-Admin
      5 years ago

      New diagram uploaded for this exercise.