Maximise Your Training with The Cavaletti Cross | Nina Gill

Nina Gill | Fancy Footwork,

As a coach whose business is primarily polework clinics, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and products to improve what I do and to continue to make my clinics fun, engaging and challenging, and with these Cavaletti Crosses from PolyJumps I’ve definitely discovered my new favourite piece of equipment!

Polework is an invaluable tool for both horses and riders as it has so many benefits.
Not only is it fun for all involved, the improvements gained by doing it can be felt both on the flat and over fences, as it helps with the horses balance and rhythm, if done correctly it will help to develop their paces and regulate their stride.
Certain exercises can facilitate teaching the horse how to take longer or shorter steps depending on how far apart or close together the poles are, and it’s invaluable to develop coordination and proprioception.

For young horses polework is a brilliant introduction to jumping, but it can also be done in hand too, and it’s especially beneficial in rehabilitation cases where horses are recovering from certain conditions or injuries, as it helps to strengthen the whole body and engage the core when done correctly, but in the cases of rehabilitation it must only be carried out under the guidance of your vet or whichever qualified industry professional is treating your horse, and regular check-ups must be put in place to ensure progress is correct.

No matter whether done in hand or ridden polework can be done in all 3 paces and will improve the horses gymnastic ability, endurance and power, but a way to maximise all of the aforementioned benefits is by raising the poles.
This will amplify the effort put in by the horse and encourage greater lift through their body, therefore elevating the paces.
Raised poles will create more suppleness in the horse and more flexibility through the joints in their legs which help engage their hind quarters, which in turn will lighten the horses forehand and improve his balance.
If done correctly it will help recruit the horses abdominal muscles and engage the core which are all desirable benefits.

Some horses are notoriously lazy, and while polework can help motivate these, by raising the poles you dictate to the horse how high they must lift his legs, so there are no excuses for them not to put in more effort!

Polyjumps do a brilliant range of Pole raising products - the pole pods are inexpensive to buy and so easy to use, but are very successful in what they achieve. They stack neatly and I personally keep 3 sets for my clinics behind the front seats in my car!
The Mini blocks are genius in their creation! you have a choice of 3 different heights to use With them, and again they are so easily moved to wherever in the arena that they are needed plus all pole raisers come in a huge range of colours depending on your taste!

The most recent brilliant creation to come from PolyJumps is their new Cavaletti Crosses!
These are far bigger in size than the pole pods or mini blocks, and rather than the pole sitting on top of the raisers, these slot into them, which for me is my favourite feature, as when I’m running a Polework clinic with 4 horses in a group I don’t have to worry about the whole group having to wait if a raised pole gets knocked when using these Cavaletti Crosses as due to their robust nature the chances of them getting moved out of place is far less likely, however a very clever design safety feature is that they will roll if a horse hits them hard enough which greatly lessens the chance of an accident.

Thanks to the thought put into the design of Cavaletti Crosses they can be set to 4 different heights, which means they can be easily adapted to the horse which is using them.

It’s not the case that the higher the raised pole the greater the benefits, it’s important to make sure that you take time building up to using the higher heights, making sure your horse is physically capable before doing so, and be prepared that this could take weeks or months depending on your horse.

Three of my favourite exercises are detailed below. They are all easy to set up and only use 4 to 6 poles and one or two pole raisers of your choice per pole.

The most common way of setting out poles is in a straight line, and from here you can choose to raise either one, or both ends of the pole. If you choose to raise just one, try raising alternate ends to ensure your horse uses both sides of his body equally to promote symmetry in his muscle development.
Start off with 4 poles and add more once your horse is ready to progress.

Another great exercise is to set 4 poles out in a fan shape on a semi-circle, again raising one or both ends as you choose.
This exercise has all the benefits of raised Pole work, plus as it’s done on a half-circle it will also improve suppleness throughout the horses body.
It can also help you to lengthen or shorten the horses stride depending on where you ride through the poles - if you ride towards the inside edge the gaps between the poles will be shorter, and towards the outside edge of the poles they will be longer giving you a choice of which line to ride through depending on what you want to do with your horse.
Add more poles as you progress!

A very versatile way to use 4 poles plus however many raisers you want to use is by setting the poles on a 20 metre circle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o clock.
This is the only exercise you can work through at all paces without having to move the poles, and as your horse progresses over time you can even build the poles into small fences using the Cavaletti Crosses on their highest setting.
This is a challenging exercise for horse and rider and will help build your horses gymnastic ability and your reaction times as a rider!

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