My lesson last Wednesday included ground poles and boy was that a challenge! I have so rarely used them in my lessons that they start to scramble my brain on the mere sight of them set up in the arena.
My instructor had the poles set up in a quarter turn in a corner of the arena. We started by walking over the poles in both directions with the expectation of maintaining a consistent speed and going over the same point on each of the poles. I had trouble keeping the correct amount of bend when approaching the corner and sometimes I took too shallow of a turn so we missed the poles completely. Once I succeeded at the walk in both directions we moved to the same exercise in the trot.
I had a tough time maintaining the speed and really had to concentrate on not letting Louie hesitate or slow before the poles. I also found it a bit tough to pick a correct line. Since the poles are set on a curve, it matters on which arc you choose to travel since the spacing of the poles is different. After some work, I had success in both directions and my instructor moved the poles further apart and asked me to now do the same exercise at the canter.
We hadn’t even cantered in our last few lessons and I was coming off a week with no lesson so i was a little apprehensive. The first two tries, we picked up the canter and as soon as we hit the poles he trotted. My instructor urged me to pick a different line since that one wasn’t working and probably the reason I lost the canter since Louie was having to throw in extra steps. I picked a wider part of the arc and managed to keep the canter. It wasn’t perfect but it was better, and as my instructor mentioned, if I support him/encourage him enough over the poles, he CAN adjust even if the line I’ve chosen wasn’t great.
We finished with a wickedly hard drill that had me canter over the poles tracking right, do a simple change across the diagonal, and then go over the poles again tracking left.
I did better than I thought I would on this one and only lost the canter a bit on the final pass over the poles tracking left. I was soooo exhausted after all of that. I was wearing a thin vest that felt like a down jacket and due to a combo of the slight cold I was nursing and poor fitness, I was huffing and puffing as much as Louie when we finished.
Tough stuff, but GOOD stuff!