Working with poles on the ground

Laying out a set of bars on the ground is a great exercise for working on the rhythm, regularity and length of strides.

Because your coach won't always be there to show you the correct distances, it's important to know the ideal distance between the poles on the ground in order to work your horse alone under the right conditions.

Of course, the distance depends on what you want to work towards. If you want to work on collecting your horse, you'll need the poles closer together, and if you want to increase stride length, you'll need them further apart. Don't be too eager, change things gradually so as to avoid surprising your horse.

Here are the basic distances for standard strides with an average-sized horse.

travail barres au sol


Distances between poles on the ground

You then have the choice of placing the poles at every stride, which is a little easier to begin with, or to space them further apart by several strides. The aim here in this case is to define the number of strides to be made between the two poles.

For example, you place two poles on the ground, 21 m apart. This is equal to the distance of 5 normal strides required for a combination. Once you have succeeded in completing this series of 5 strides several times, you can try adding another stride, or reducing it by one stride. This is an excellent exercise to prepare for jumping. 

  • Working trot: from 1.35 metres to 1.45 metres between poles (if there aren't any jumps)
  • Working canter: 2.70 metres to 3 metres (if there aren't any jumps)



Distance between poles on the ground in a combination jump

In theory, in a combination jump, a horse's stride corresponds to around 3.5 m. Each horse's stride differs depending on their size, but the following distances can be used as a guide:

  • a single stride for a type B pony (from 1.08 to 1.30 m at the withers) is equal to 2.90 m
  • a single stride for a type C pony (from 1.31 to 1.40 m at the withers) is equal to 3.10 m
  • a single stride for a type D pony (from 1.42 to 1.50 m at the withers) is equal to 3.30 m

The idea is as follows:

For a horse, a stride is equal to 3.50 m. So to calculate the distance for a line, you simply need to multiply 3.50 m by the number of strides desired, then add ONE stride (3.50 m). this last stride corresponds to the distance covered on arriving at the first obstacle and preparing for the second:

  • For 1 stride: 3.50 m X (1+1)= 7.50 m
  • For 2 strides: 3.50 m X (2+1)= 10.50 m
  • For 3 strides: 3.50 m X (3+1)= 14 m
  • For 4 strides: 3.50 m X (4+1)= 17.50 m
  • For 5 strides: 3.50 m X (5+1)= 21 m
  • For 6 strides: 3.50 m X (6+1)= 24.50 m

 For a pony, you simply need to replace the figure of 3.50 m with the length of a pony's stride.