Exercise 2: Ground Pole to Crossrail
Kent might make the distance slightly longer so the horse had to stretch—so long as it was within the horse’s capability. On the other hand, if his horse was eating up the distance, Kent might make it a bit shorter so the horse would get accustomed to a short distance and learn to wait.
At home, Kent typically does gymnastic work once a week and course work once a week and is careful to be very deliberate with the amount of jumping. “I don’t want to jump extra jumps for fun,” he said. “You’re just beating up on the horse for no reason. The least amount of jumping I can do to accomplish the lesson—that’s my goal. … I can teach him to slow down on the flat or over poles and then build the jump up to as small as possible to get where I am trying to go.” As he did on the flat, Kent asked riders to focus on feel and gave them options in certain parts of the exercises to turn, circle or stop when they felt they needed it to better the horse.
Exercise 1: Ground Poles
Setup: Two ground poles 16 feet (one stride) apart
Kent instructed the riders to approach the simple ground-pole exercise on a normal canter without controlling the stride too much and to catch it once off the right lead and once off the left. Horses were to quietly canter over the first pole, take one stride and land on the other side of the second pole. The distance was set at 16 feet as a specific training exercise to make riders practice patience, and wait for a “disciplined” distance. “You don’t want a flying distance over the rail, where it’s super long,” he called. “Just step over.” He admitted that the distance might feel a little long to riders aboard horses with shorter strides.
Lessons from the flatwork were quickly carried over as Kent reminded riders to keep their upper bodies from jumping forward at the poles.
Exercise 2: Ground Pole to Crossrail
Setup: Ground pole 9 feet to a crossrail, then 9 feet to another ground pole
This exercise was used as a control exercise in which a quieter and shorter distance worked better than a long one. Horses were to canter the pole, take a quiet bounce
step over the crossrail and finally, a bounce stride over the second pole. Kent noted that if the fence had been much larger, it would be set at a longer distance. First, riders went through Exercise 1 on the right lead, quietly stopped or did a downward transition, then turned left into the arena wall before approaching Exercise 2 on the left lead.
“This is an easy distance to the pole coming in. That’s why we wanted to practice the disciplined distance at the poles,” said Kent. “Don’t just fly at the rail. If you’re not sure, always add one stride.”
Since Exercise 1 was set at the end of the ring, the horses anticipated going right after the exercise because there wasn’t as much room to turn left. Kent stressed the importance of training the horses to turn left and roll back into the wall, reprogramming them to stay in tune and to hold the line where the riders wanted to go.
“The idea of turning backwards into the wall is that the horse doesn’t anticipate the turn,” Kent said. “It’s going to teach them better balance and to slow down and wait for the rider to know where they’re going next so that they’re not anticipating and taking it into their own hands.” Echoes from the flatwork came through as Delaney Flynn struggled with her horse’s pogo-stick canter. Kent told her to encourage the horse to have a long stride without being fast. He had her circle first to get a longer stride before approaching Exercise 2. “Don’t let him canter in place,“he called. “Accelerate around the end and [be] patient at the exercise.”
Cecily Hayes and Lothello demonstrate Exercise 2, a crossrail with ground poles placed 9 feet on either side.