Learn Three Things: Cavalletti

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Jec A. Ballou

By Jec A. Ballou

Cavalletti schooling became popular when the late Dr. Reiner Klimke used them to train his dressage Olympians. His daughter, Ingrid, has continued to use cavalletti to develop her international dressage and eventing horses. In fact, cavalletti are so widely recognized for their value in improving equine athletes that trainers in every discipline seem to tout them. Read on for three tips worth knowing in order to make cavalletti a consistent part of your regular schooling.

#1 - Most recognized for building strength, cavalletti routines can also be used for creating looseness, balance, and straightness. Using them in varied setups to achieve all these results creates a more well-rounded horse and abates the boredom from predictable patterns. To give cavalletti a consistent place in your weekly workouts, learn exercises for walk, trot, and canter. 

#2 - Higher is not better. Most horses gain the gymnastic benefits they need from riding over poles placed directly on the ground. It is not necessary to raise poles off the ground in order to gain the basic results that cavalletti offer – abdominal muscle recruitment, clearer rhythm, firing of postural stabilizing muscles. Many riders think that getting the horse to step higher over raised poles is a more desirable form of the exercise. In reality, form trumps extravagantly high steps. It is far more important that the horse performs the exercise with good topline posture, steady rhythm, and balance.

#3 - Spacing of poles for an average sized horse is as follows. For walk, set poles 2 to 2.5 feet (.6 to .75 metres) apart; for trot, space poles 3.5 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 metres) apart; for canter, space poles 9 to 11 feet (2.75 to 3.33 metres) apart. You want poles spaced such that the horse takes a single stride in between each set of poles. These measurements are for an average sized horse; adjust spacing based on your individual horse.

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