One of my favourite pole layouts!
A great exercise for working within walk and trot, ideal for long and short arenas too!
Zig Zag trotting poles are a great exercise that really encourages the horse to use themselves without having to use pole raisers. Although the spacing is the exactly the same as standard straight trotting poles, to the eye they appear wider, encouraging the horse to really open their steps and frame over the poles. This layout is also useful if you have a limited number of poles and space, keeping the set up and down time short if you’re using them on your own.
Number of poles required
Minimum of five.
Measured from the centre of each pole, 1.5 of my own strides OR 5 heel to toe steps. My own spacing works well for Lizzy who is 16hh however, you may need to adjust this slightly to suit your horse/pony. The angle of the Zig Zag poles can be as shallow or steep as you like, so long as each pole measures the same space to the next from the centre.
Using the single poles at each end of the layout helps to keep everything nice and simple whilst warming up.
Exercise 1: Again, the single poles at each end of the layout can be used as a warm up, or incorporated into the exercise also.
Exercise 2: Trotting down the line of Zig Zag poles – this can prove a little tricky to begin with as the poles are slightly offset. However, once the horse gains confidence over the poles, the spacing of them will really help to encourage the horse to stretch and use himself.
SN: If the horse is new to this exercise, to start, place the poles at a more shallow angle. Once the horse gains confidence, you can adjust the angle to become a little more steep.
Personal summary: The images at the start of our session show that Lizzy is quite tight and upright in her frame. As we warm up over the single poles, she starts to relax and lengthen her neck, allowing more swing through her back and her hind legs to move underneath a little more. By the end of the session, Lizzy is totally relaxed, stretching over the poles and lengthening her whole frame, making a much better shape and light work of the exercise. At the end I always allow her to trot a few circles on each rein to stretch at her own pace, which she always really makes the most of.
What Lizzy is wearing:
It was an extremely overcast but warm day when we demonstrated this exercise for the purpose of this article so Lizzy was dressed in HUSK Technology Horse Wear to keep her as cool and comfortable as possible.
HUSK 3D Shield Air Target Protection Boots. It was a really hot day and Lizzy stayed cool yet protected under her boots. Being lightweight and flexible, they didn’t restrict her movement over the poles at all. https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/husk-3d-shield-target-protection-boots/
What I’m wearing:
The Kerrits Microcord kneepatch breeches – ideal for ground work as well as in the saddle. Lightweight yet supportive, providing maximum comfort and freedom of movement which is well needed when working Lizzy from the ground. They keep their shape at all times so I always feel well supported. https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/kerrits-microcord-kneepatch-breeches/
Article written by Kirsty Pearce, Equispire on behalf of The Comfy Horse Company