Sally Cousins’ Weekly Training Tip: Cantering a Pole

We are delighted to introduce Sally Cousins as our newest guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami at Rolex. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami at Rolex. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Sally has been riding and competing at the highest levels for more than 30 years, starting with Badminton and Burghley at the tender age of 20, and has continued to compete at the CCI4* level for the rest of her career. She also integrated a serious job as a stock broker for Merrill Lynch with her career as a rider, before deciding after 16 years to become a true riding professional. Sally is known in the eventing world for riding some of the most difficult horses, and she loves a challenge. It is our pleasure to share her thoughts with you here on EN!

From Sally:

As our courses have gotten more technical, I think it has become more important for riders to become more accurate riding to the jumps. The thing that I do that hugely helps my timing is to canter poles on the ground. Every day that I ride, I have at least two poles in the ring on the ground, and every horse I ride, I canter over the poles, whether the horse is jumping or doing dressage. Sometimes I practice cantering over a pole on a circle, and sometimes I practice it with a straight approach. I adjust the stride using the same aids as I would if I were cantering to a jump. When I canter the pole, I make sure that I’m using a canter I feel like I could jump out of. I will sometimes change the canter from working, to medium, back to collected so that I can work on my timing out of all the canters I will need when I get to the event.

This not only helps to improve your eye to the fences, but also the degree and timing of aids you will need. It is harder to find a good stride to a rail on the ground than it is to a fence. If you can regularly find good distances to a pole on the ground, then when you go to a fence it will be that much easier. Having a good eye will not take the place of having a good quality canter but it will certainly increase your chances of having a good jump. The bigger the jumps, the more important your timing becomes.

I canter the pole approximately five times off each lead on each horse every time I ride. This can be frustrating when you start doing it, but your horse will relax very quickly into this work. If your horse gets quick or does not jump the pole quietly, simply bring him back to the walk and then try again until relaxation is achieved.

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