What’s in Your Arena? Presented by Attwood: Cavaletti Chaos

What’s in Your Arena? is an EN series sponsored by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces in which riders share their favorite jumping exercises. It’s easy to get stuck in a training rut, and we hope this will inspire you with fresh ideas that you can take home and incorporate into your own programs.

Kelley Shetter-Ruiz of Carpe Diem Training and her “pole dancing” partner, Tristan the Wonder Horse, are Internet famous for their YouTube videos of pick-up sticks looking ground pole exercises.

The pair, who have evented together through Novice, originally took to pole exercises to break up the monotony of Wisconsin winters in the indoor. Kelley writes on her blog:

“As the water buckets begin to freeze and the warm layers go on, we tend to find the arena walls closing in on us. By February, both horse and rider are ready to hibernate from the cold and from overall sheer boredom.

“This was where Tristan and I were last winter. I had been spending the winter conditioning him with gymnastics and simple pole work but his attitude was basically turning into ‘Mr. Crabby Pants’ from so much repetition. He could do four poles in a row, straight or curved, with his eyes shut. Even incorporating canter cavalettis became the ‘same old, same old.’  

“So one cold February day, I decided to turn a four-pole exercise into a 24-pole exercise. Tristan was hooked!  Each time I set up a different exercise, he would immediately walk over and try to figure out the pattern.  Indoor arena work became fun and challenging again, not to mention the amount of hind end strength he developed.”

As complicated as they look, Kelley’s exercises aren’t rocket science. She reports that she just thinks up a pattern and paces of 4 1/2 foot striding. Check out her book, Fun with Ground Poles, which outlines a number of beginner patterns complete with diagrams, measurements and riding tips. And/or just head out to your own ring and get creative!

A note from Kelley:

“Pole work is both educational and fun for both horse and rider, but as with any activity done with a horse, caution should always be used. I started walking Tristan over ground poles in hand as a weanling and have spent many years developing him into a handy, surefooted ground pole dancer.

“It is important to start slow and not overwhelm your horse with too challenging of an exercise. It is easy to overstimulate them both mentally and physically if asked too much. You can’t build Rome in a day, but with time every horse and rider, of any discipline, can discover their inner talent with ground pole work!”

Watch more videos from Kelley and Tristan on their YouTube channel here.

Do you have an exercise to share or is there an eventer you would like to nominate for the “What’s in Your Arena?” series? Email [email protected]