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5 Pole Work Exercises for Your Horse with Just 3 Poles!

June 26, 2022
Henrik von Eckermann riding over 3 poles while training his horse

Pole work is a great way to add variety and fun into your sessions with your horse! It’s great for improving your scales of training and your accuracy as a rider. Incorporate it into your regular training sessions or it can be a session on its own! Here are some pole work exercises to help you get inspired. 

What are These Exercises Useful for?

  • Rhythm
  • Straightness
  • Accuracy
  • Suppleness

Pole Measurements!  

  • A standard pole is approximately 3m or 10ft long. You will need three poles of this length.
  • The length of a pole is roughly as long as one canter stride for most horses. 
  • Half of the length of one pole is approximately as long as one trot stride for most horses. 
  • Before riding, walk along the pole on foot with one foot in front of the other making heel to toe steps. Count how many steps it takes to walk along one pole and to walk along half. 
  • The number of steps it takes to walk along a whole pole is the number of steps of a canter stride, and half the pole is the number of steps of a trot stride. 
  • When laying the poles out for your exercise, walk between them with one foot in front of the other and count out the number of steps that you worked out earlier to create either a canter or trot stride between each pole. 

Pole Work Exercise 1: The Slide

How to Lay Out the Poles: 

The Slide takes the shape of a variation of 3 standard trot poles but only ⅔ s of the poles overlap and ⅓ of the poles is separate creating a slide pattern. Each pole is parallel and one trot stride apart from the next.

Pole layout.

How to Ride the Exercise: 

To begin with, just ride in trot over one pole. This will be on the ⅓ of the pole that is separate from the others. Then introduce a second pole, again choosing the part where just two poles overlap. Finally ride over all three poles. This is a good test for your accuracy as only ⅓ of the poles line up all together. Then ride across the arena, through the poles. Do this in either trot or canter! 


  • Add transitions in when you ride between the poles. 
  • Ride over a single pole that sticks out on a circle canter. This will help if your horse is too strong or excitable in canter over the poles!
  • Make a diagonal line over the three poles to develop the medium trot. 

Pole Work Exercise 2: The Triangle

How to Lay Out the Poles:

Put three poles in a triangle shape and make sure it is lined up in the middle of the arena, on the centre line. You could also set this up with the ¾ line if you want to practice your circles there instead of on the centre line.

How to Ride the Exercise:

Start by riding a diagonal line through the triangle coming in from the base of the triangle and out over the point, making sure you stay straight. Then, do it the other way round and ride into the triangle at the point and out at the base. Next, ride 20m circles in trot and aim to come through the inside ⅓ of the layout.


  • Place the triangle on the ¾ line and make it harder by riding 15m circles instead of 20m. 
  • Use the wider line in the outside part of the layout as a counter bounce- make sure your horse doesn’t rush through!

Pole Work Exercise 3: The Zig Zag

How to Lay Out the Poles:

To start with, you lay your poles out in a triangle just like the last exercise. Then you take the end of the base pole and walk it round to form a zig zag shape.

How to Ride the Exercise: 

To begin with, ride some straight lines in trot across the diagonal and go over one pole per line. Make each diagonal line incorporate a different pole each time. You might need to make small turns to begin each diagonal line. Next make turns towards the points of the zig zag and ride a straight line over them. The point going away from you is easier to ride a straight line over than the point towards you. 


  • Try these exercises in canter.
  • Ride straight across the zig zag and aim to ride a straight line over the middle strip of each pole to help the horse elevate their strides. 

Pole Work Exercise 4: The Crown

How to Lay Out the Poles:

Just like “The Slide”, there are sections where ⅔ of the poles overlap with ⅓ of the pole sticking out. You have sections where you can ride 1 pole alone, 2 poles together and then all 3 poles too! They are one trot stride apart and the ends are measured to make sure they are parallel. 

How to Ride the Exercise: 

Start by riding a straight line in trot over one pole, then two, then three. Once you have had a go in trot, pick up the canter and use the single pole in canter on a circle. 


  • Place this layout on the ¾ line so that the turns are tighter and require more collection. 
  • Ride two poles on a diagonal line in trot to encourage the medium trot. 

Pole Work Exercise 5: The Cup

How to Lay Out the Poles:

To start with, you lay your poles out in the same layout as the last exercise “The Crown”. Then take the middle pole and lay it across the end of the other two poles and this should line up. 

How to Ride the Exercise: 

To start with, trot straight down the ¾ line in trot over the two poles making sure the horse does not rush through them. Then put a transition in the middle of the two poles. Next, come on a circle and cross on of the poles at a slightly varied angle.


  • Adjust your circle and pick different poles to go over to make your horse think quickly and about where they are putting their feet.
  • Change the angle and the pole each time to keep your horse listening. 
  • Do the same exercises in canter. 

Where Can I Find More Exercises Like This?

These exercises are part of a training program in the Ridely app. Ridely is a leading equestrian app that helps riders plan their schedules with their horses and track their progress. It has a video library of over 450 exercises with trainers such as Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Henrik von Eckermann, Meredith Michaels Beerbaum and more! The app has many training programs that riders can use to take them through step by step sessions towards reaching their end goals- including this program! New programs are added frequently. Download the app in the App Store or on Google Play so you don’t miss out! 

Who Can I Ask for Help and Advice?

Each training program in the Ridely app has its own group where riders taking on the same programs can share their experiences, tips and advice. There is a licensed trainer in each group to answer questions.

  • Train with 11+ Olympians from home.
  • Learn and make the most of your equestrian life.

Learn from Carl Hester in Ridely!

Exclusive training videos with top trainers and riders like Carl Hester are available in the Ridely library. Don’t miss out!