Not paying attention over poles - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 01:05 PM Thread Starter
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Not paying attention over poles

Teddy likes poles, but he likes to jump them. He doesn’t like to trot over them. He never lifts his feet up enough, or sometimes at all, and then he hits them. Sometimes he trips. Today he had a bad trip over a series of two partially raised (I forget what the name for this is, I mean they were on the ground on one side and about 10 inches up on the other side, so they were diagonal relative to the ground) poles. The thing is, going into the poles, I could tell he wasn’t paying attention because his ears were everywhere but on where he was going. And sure enough, he almost fell. We went over them a second time, and he stepped on it with a back leg and it rolled. Same thing, he wasn’t paying attention.

We went back and walked over them forwards and backwards a couple of times, then trotted them, and then he did fine, but he still wasn’t really paying attention.

How can I get him to focus on the poles so he doesn’t trip? I am worried that if this happens enough times, he’s going to start losing confidence, and then he’ll start getting anxious, which isn’t a path I want to go down with him. He pays attention when the pole is high enough that he’s going to have to jump it. He’s already really rider-focused, so I’m afraid that anything I actively do, right before or when we’re going over the poles, is going to make him focus on me, and he needs to be focused on the poles

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post #2 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 01:16 PM
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You need to ride him focusing on you and job at hand, not the scenery outside the ring...not easy sometimes I know.
Teddy sounds like he is not paying attention to you just going through the motion of movement...he's not thinking.

My other thought is although you say he tripped and rolled one with a hind foot is who set the spread distance?
And is the spread distance Teddy's stride distance?
Some horses are long strided, some short-strided and some a medium stride...but the distance apart between poles needs to match the horse so we pick up our feet but not jump or thump the poles...
I use to rake a part of the ring so no hoof-prints...
Warm-up and once we were moving and working I took one pass over that freshly raked dirt...then did not go to that section of the ring the rest of the ride.
Depending upon what I was looking for...tape measure and you will know what Teddy's stride is at what impulsion level of motion you were asking.

The "raised" poles are called cavaletti...

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post #3 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 01:26 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. He was definitely having a not focused sort of day. My MIL was there, and I think he thought she was a new instructor and kept waiting to see what she was going to do. Plus the weather was changing.

But... I can get him focused on me pretty easily. How can I get him focused on the poles?

It's true that I didn't check the distance on the poles, but I went over those poles myself with the lesson pony yesterday, who has a somewhat shorter stride, and I saw people riding one of the QH-sized horses, who has about the same stride as Teddy, as well.
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post #4 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 01:33 PM
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I have seen the advice for setting trotting poles anywhere between 3' and 4'6", depending on the source you are using. Maybe you should experiment with distances until you find the comfortable trotting distance for your guy. Start with only two set down, then add.
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post #5 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 02:03 PM
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Are your poles along the rail or middle of the ring???

I use to use middle of the ring...
Not just ride over them but use them to do serpentines, suppling and steering exercises to kind of mess with the brain and make them think.
I also would say have 5 ground rails...ride at a diagonal and pick up one or two rails, granted not centered but the attention was suddenly on the job in front of my horse..
I also sometimes did not make a line of rails...but a box of rails (Figure-2 below) so we worked on cadence, pace and steering being the rails did not touch...they were spaced and had between 4' -5' so we could cut across and then still pick up a part of the ground poles to wake-up my horse who got complacent very easily bored he was.
Some, a few ideas of what you can do with a few poles... the diagram below is from pinterest.
Here is a link though to many more examples...
sorry for the sizing but you can clearly see many fun things to keep the mind with you not in outer-space..

We also did do some ground pole to a cavaletti jump of 8" cross-bar...stride or two of canter and here came another set of ground poles...
Took a lot of man-hours changing things up...
The barn I was at loved it cause I would set up courses, leave for a week and rip it apart and do something different...I got bored too watching others just jump, jump and more jump.
Boarders who jumped loved-it as something new and challenging appeared often.
Once you can get Teddy to stay mentally focused, do grid work, bounces and such if he is agile, if he isn't agile he will get agile or hit rails often.
I would offer caution since it is Teddy that is returning from a injury or is that Pony...either way, slowly introduce as the horse must also build muscle memory to do rails and jumps of any size, combination or height.

This might give you some ideas...
From the link below comes a reference for striding distances..

The book Cavaletti by Ingid & Reiner Klimke is a wealth of knowledge that works too and I found fun to read.
Have fun with the project...
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post #6 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 02:43 PM Thread Starter
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@horselovinguy there was sort of a course of poles. The ones he was having trouble with were on the quarter line. There were some at a weird diagonal, also cavalettis, and he had no problem with those, or with the single ground pole that was perpendicular to these poles.

I REALLY like your illustration, lots of good ideas there. I agree with you that he needs to be forced to think about what he's doing, not be allowed to just go into auto pilot, which I think is what is happening now.

Teddy isn't the one coming back from the injury, that's Pony. Pony currently has no saddle (per my question about his saddle fit) so I'm riding him in the bareback pad. I didn't think it was fair to make him trot over these poles in the pad, with me bumping his back; but we did walk them, just to try to get him back into shape. Teddy, however, does not have any apparent injuries and this shouldn't be an issue for him.
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post #7 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 02:54 PM
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HLG has said it all!

I was on a course with a renowned trainer, Dick Stillwell, notorious for being outrageously tough.

I was riding a big young horse that had a heck of a pop to him. He was very laid back and after doing an exercise a coupl of times wou,d get careless and step on the poles.

We were working on a circle over trot 4 poles then a small X rail to a small over. Bear had done it well first time, second carelessly. Third time Dick told me to sit tight. As riders we were only guiding the horses allowing them to find their own way. Bear slopped over the first pole, trod on the next at which point Dick whacked him across the butt, Bear leapt forward, tripped again went onto his knees and nose, regained his feet and cleared the fence!

All the time Dick was shouting out, "Lovely, lovely, that'll teach him!"

He was never sloppy over poles again.
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post #8 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 11:04 PM
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My horse always hit ground poles, killed me in trail classes, he will do a perfect course, but tick every pole. His previous owners and trainer said he did "trail by Braille". We tried the exercises and corrects mentioned in the previous posts, it worked during session. Next time in a class, he was back to nicking them. Then I worked with a new coach, found out it was my fault and my timing, he needed to be set up perfect, once I could gauge his strides at all gaits, I could set him up, he was perfect. Again, it's all the riders fault, lol.
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post #9 of 10 Old 01-16-2020, 11:25 PM
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I set poles wherever, sometimes only a foot apart. I do this because we do a lot of trail riding and I really need him to know where his feet are. I always lead him through the first few times, slowly, sometimes even tapping the rail to have him look at it. After riding through a few times, I move them. He's gotten a lot better at watching and picking up his feet.
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post #10 of 10 Old 01-17-2020, 09:47 AM
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All I could think when I read this is, "impulsion". I think one of my instructors shouted that word at me a hundred times per lesson when she set up challenging trot pole courses for me (sometimes up to ten poles in a row). The pony I was riding at the time did *not* like to pick up her feet if she didn't have to, and we would sound like a percussion ensemble the first few times - I'd literally cringe at each pole we hit. And sometimes - very occasionally - blissful silence when it would feel like skipping over each one.

Some of these things worked for me:
-Lots of warm-up before attempting the poles - transitioning between collected and a more forward trot between the short and long sides of the arena, so we could get a baseline for that forward trot.
-A lot of the horses I ride will get more forward and pick up better impulsion if I canter them a few times before returning to trot.
-Repetition (even if it means not getting it right the first few times - see "percussion ensemble").
-Never even glancing at the poles - always looking up and forward.

But otherwise- I truly, truly empathize.
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