Improve Your Performance With Poles

Are you looking for some exercises to help spice up your schooling? Do you need some pointers to develop the straightness, suppleness, balance or responsiveness of your horse? Look no further! Here at Petplan Equine we recognise the importance of keeping your horse’s routine and schooling sessions varied and fun, and have put together a series of training tips which may help to inspire you and your horse.

Click the icons below to reveal some great pole, jump and grid exercises for you and your horse to try.

Pole Work Exercises img

Pole Work Exercises

Pole work can be a great addition to your schooling sessions, keeping things exciting for both you and your horse. You can be as creative as you like, setting out as many different shapes and lines as your imagination will allow! As well as making flatwork more exciting, pole work exercises can also help develop your horse’s core stability, improving balance, control and steering.

We’ve put together a selection of pole work exercises to help inspire you...


The 20m Circle

This exercise is great to test the balance and rhythm of your horse. Suitable for all levels of riders, this will really highlight whether your horse can keep a consistent rhythm around the circle.

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The Clover

This exercise is good for testing your horse’s rhythm, accuracy and suppleness, testing you to ride between straight lines and around corners.

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The Related Distance

This exercise is very easy to set up and is great for testing the adjustability of your horse’s paces. This is especially good for playing with your horse’s canter.

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The Triangle

This exercise is useful to practise your centre lines and straightness, as well as riding a curved line. Easy to set up, this exercise is loved by all!

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The Interlocking S-Bend

This exercise is great to work on suppleness and straightness and will highlight if your horse is really listening to you.

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The Diagonals

This exercise is so easy to set up and gives you lots of options! Suitable for all, this one can really help your accuracy, control and direction.

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The Double Triangle

This exercise is so diverse and can be used to help your horse’s suppleness. Ridden in walk and trot, this exercise will really get your horse thinking about where their feet are.

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The Serpentine

This exercise requires a lot of poles but can really help your test movements, for example your centre lines or serpentine! Use as many or as few poles as you have and enjoy this creative layout.

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The Transitions Circles

This exercise can be really useful to help sharpen up your transitions in a fun way for both you and your horse. Suitable for all levels of riders, this will really help focus your transitions.

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The Criss-Cross

This exercise gives you so many options, helping you to work on straightness, suppleness or even just control! Easy to set up, this exercise is suitable for all levels of riders.

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Jumping Exercises

Not all horses have the natural ability to jump, however if this is something that you and your horse enjoy, jumping can add great variety and a lot of excitement for both of you! Whether you compete in British Eventing, pure show jumping or are just looking to have some fun at home; jumping exercises can be key to helping your horse improve their strength, agility and balance, requiring precision and control.

Even if you are mainly a dressage rider, jumping can be beneficial to you and your horse. Dressage rider and Petplan Equine Ambassador Amy Tilston says how she likes to use jumping and grid work as it “really helps with balance and strength as well as using it to get the horse to be a little quicker on their feet”.

We’ve put together a selection of jumping exercises to help inspire you to give it a try...


The Zig-Zag

This exercise is great to practise your turns and line on the approach to a fence, and also for practising lead changes over a jump. Set this one up down the centre of your arena and off you go!

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The Off-Set Three

This exercise gives you the chance to really test your control, straightness and accuracy! Set this up as pictured, with each jump two to four strides apart.

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The Related Distance Circle

This exercise is great for horses who like to rush between fences and get a bit ahead of themselves! Use this one to work on rhythm and balance.

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The Square

This exercise has a couple of different options which can help you work on your control, especially for horse’s that may start to anticipate where they’re going and stop listening to you as the rider.

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The Right Angle Turns

This exercise may help horses who like to rush before or after a fence. It can equally be beneficial to those just wanting to work on their turns!

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The Jump-Off Turn

This exercise is easy to set up and can help you practise course riding and perfect your control, rhythm and those jump-off turns!

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Grid Work Exercises

Grid work can be extremely beneficial to your horse, teaching them to be supple and reactive. It can be really useful to help young or green horses learn to keep a steady rhythm, not to rush and increase their confidence in jumping as the striding and take off points are set out for you!

The possibilities of grid layout are endless and different layouts can help improve different aspects of your jumping. For example, Petplan Equine Ambassador Laura Gordon says “I also add in a lot more gymnastic exercises; such as bounces in a grid to help strengthen muscles but also to get him reacting and thinking quicker”.

We’ve put together a selection of grid work exercises to help inspire you to give it a try...


The Simple Grid

This exercise is a great starting point, especially for greener horses or those who have not done much grid work.

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The Confidence Giving Grid

This exercise can be particularly useful for horses who tend to rush through their grids or who need a little extra help to find a good take off spot, helping to build their confidence.

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The Y-Grid

This exercise is great to make sure you are in control and your horse is listening and not anticipating where they’re going next! This can also help you practise your landing leads in canter.

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The Curved Grid

This exercise will really test the gymnastic ability of your horse, working on suppleness and balance. This exercise is something to work toward with greener horses as it is physically demanding and may be unsuitable for the less experienced horse.

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The Rushing Grid

This exercise is great to help your horse keep a steady rhythm to a fence and reduce rushing. Use as many or as few poles as you have!

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Exercise of the month

The Double Triangle

This exercise is so diverse and can be used to help your horse’s suppleness. Ridden in walk and trot, this exercise will really get your horse thinking about where their feet are.

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Stride Guide

Unsure how to correctly set out your poles? Check out our Stride Guide with Petplan Equine Ambassador Laura Gordon.