Leaping over poles…

Hi all,

My boy is a bit on the green side, but very sweet and very earnest. So much so, that one of the first times I took him over two trot poles (spaced the correct distance apart), he jumped both of them. Laughed hard, schooled them a bunch of times on a bunch of different occasions since then no issues. Then, this past week, we very calmly approached two trot poles and he very calmly and very smoothly rocked back and cleared both in one big jump, and landed very civilized on the other side. We get it bud, you have scope. But, as one might imagine, you don’t expect what feels like a 3”6’ fence when you’re just trotting around. How does this get corrected exactly? We’re trying to build his tushie and I’m highly concerned about what happens when we approach a whole set of poles.

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When I first got my old mare as a 4 year old, she jumped trot poles. Single poles or grids, she would jump them.

She got over it with practice once trot poles became boring after going over them enough times. I can’t remember the exact timeline, but I don’t think it lasted more than a few months.

Does he do it on the lunge as well? That might be one way to expose him to trot poles more frequently without you needing to worry about riding through the jump, if it worries you.

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That’s a great idea. He so sweetly did it this second time—as if it was just what I asked of him—that it makes me love him even more. But we have to stop showing off…


Try not putting them one stride apart at first. Pole. Three trot strides. Pole. Three strides. Pole.

That way it’s clear to him the objective is not to launch over them all. Scoot them closer as he gets it.

This is not an uncommon mistake. Yes, unexpected, but he’s giving it a go so what a good boy. Have a laugh and an eye roll and come back around again. :slight_smile:


I second this approach.

Also, for one horse I trained who did this, I was in a lesson with some other horses and let him stand and watch one of the old schoolmasters slowly trot through 3 poles without any fuss. I brought him around and it was like everything clicked all of a sudden and he never jumped them again haha


When I’m starting pole work I’ll start with one pole and then when that’s boring and quiet, move on to three poles, not two.


Came to say this. One pole to three or more, never two. Two is an oxer to their simple little minds. If one is easy, they will likely process three very quickly.


Might be easier to just set them further apart until he gets more settled with the concept he is supposed to step between them? He does not understand what you want.

By “set at the correct distance” what do you mean? How many measured feet? Nothing is etched in stone as the “ correct” distance when introducing Greenies. It depends on each horse and their learning curve learning to relax and be confident. Simple and non dramatic is better in building that confidence.

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Poles nothing.
I had one (NOT green) who was convinced a triple bounce (4 jumps) was an oxer in-and-out.


When I introduce a green horse to poles I don’t set anything evenly spaced. Then I start at the walk until no big deal and we can be on a long rein. Wash, rinse, repeat, then go to trot wash, rinse, repeat.

The reason I like not having even spacing is that the horse has to pay attention to their feet. Yes, they will tend to step on rails a lot until they figure it out. It is no different than a horse in a big pasture with varied terrain. If they can do it with nobody on their back, I should be able to give them the space do accomplish this with me on their back. I add in true cavaletti once they are settled at single poles and odd spaced poles.


I call it the javelin. I take the pole off the rack and whoop it into the arena, repeat 3-4 times. Voila. Let’s go!




The monkey-see, monkey-do approach works surprisingly well with horses. I too did this with my guy. For a lot of things, not just trot poles. It really comes together for him when he sees someone else do the thing.


Not setting the poles at a distance. Just throw them out there and go. The javelin.


I work with a lot of youngsters so I encounter this a lot. (It really is so cute when the green earnest ones do it, they try so hard). Something I find very helpful with the more baby-brained in general is handwalking the horse (fully tacked, right before mounting) over the pole both directions first. This actually is something that stands true for a lot of the baby stuff - spooking at the back door? Weird scary pile of jump fill? Handwalk them past it/over it/through it/etc first; they prefer to have a Fearless Leader show them that these things are ok and no big deal! I even do this with the more insecure older horses as well; they appreciate feeling you’ve got a handle on things.

Once I’m on, I start by quietly walking over the poles both directions. The first time they may pause or balk for a second then awkwardly deer-jump over it. I just pat them, back to a walk, turn around, go back over. Once they’re walking over it calmly, I start trotting the poles. Often, they will regress for an instance or two and give a bit of a leap. I just pretend it never happened, go back to the trot, continue on business as usual and come around to do it again.


Got it.

I once had my not so horsey bf stop by to see me ride baby horse. I asked him to “throw a pole down for us”… Yup. He threw it all right. Luckily not directly at us (and luckily baby horse wasn’t the spooky type).


You should’ve seen the first time I asked my husband to set a crossrail. :eyes: :joy:


I had set up a baby vertical for a green OTTB (<18"). Things were going well, so I asked my non-horsey husband to raise it “a little”. I trotted a circle and looked back at what was now a 2’6" fence :sweat_smile: :joy:


The VERY first lesson I did on my baby horse, only a few days after he moved from my parents farm to the boarding barn where I ride, we rode in with a lesson that was POLES EVERYWHERE. Many 3,4,5 poles in a row. To the point where it was hard to ride without going over poles. But, the other horses were happily trotting through the poles, so my horse (after walking through a few of them), was perfectly happy to trot behind a big grey horse and do the poles “just like Harvey!” I expected things to go poorly, but I was pleasantly surprised.