From the Queen of Cavaletti

Updated: Mar 24, 2019

In honour of Ingrid Klimke’s recent Masterclass at Wellington Riding School here in the UK last month, I’ve decided I will go through a few different cavaletti exercises I learned during my time working with her. Exercise 1 will take up one ride, where 2 and 3 can be done in the same training session. If you are on a green horse you might need to alter the exercises a bit and that is totally acceptable – do what is best for your horse.

Warm Up

The warm up phase of your ride is just as important as the working phase. Make sure you do not slack on this, as it will set the tone for your ride. Want to know how Ingrid warms up all her horses? I’ll tell you. Start by walking either on a long rein or have the horse on a contact but in long and low so they are stretching. Her horses will walk for 10 minutes, if it is nice out then they do the walking outside of the arena. Straight away once you have picked up trot the horse should be going forwards and stretching, doing circles, bending lines, and changes of rein. For canter, it depends on the horse how early in the warm up it is done. Each horse is different, and it really depends how they are feeling on a specific day. Once in canter, it is just like trot – you want the horse stretching forward and downwards. An important thing to note is that the rider goes into a light seat or two point for the warm up canter, giving the horse a chance to stretch his back without the weight of the rider (even in a dressage saddle). If there are cavaletti set up then go ahead and trot over them in the warm up while your horse is stretching. This is encouraged by Ingrid! Once you feel you are warmed up take a quick walk break then into your working phase. In the working phase, all trot should be done in sitting, even the cavaletti.

Exercise 1

During warm up go through the trot cavaletti, encouraging the horse to stretch forward and downwards. Trot and canter cavaletti on a 30m circle. Trot are on the lowest setting and canter on the highest. To set up the trot cavaletti walk one pace (3 feet) on the inside ends and two on the outside. To check you have done this right you can walk middle to middle which should be 5 feet. Canter should be two paces on the inside and three on the outside.

1- In trot, go through the trot cavaletti on the circle coming to the inside of the canter cavaletti – do this in both directions. Practice being accurate in the shape and size the circle, ride middle to middle of the cavaletti. You can ride right or left of centre depending on what your horse needs, but make sure you ride to the same spot on each pole so you are not falling in or out as you go through.

2- In canter go through the canter cavaletti going to the outside of the trot cavaletti. Same as in trot, be accurate for the entire circle.

3- Start by going through the trot cavalettis on the circle. At the cone (going to the outside of it) make a transition to canter, then continue on through the canter cavaletti. At the next cone make a transition to trot and continue the exercise. Repetition is your friend. Keep at it until the transitions and cavalettis all flow. The horse will quickly catch on to what you want it to do. Remember to do in both directions and finish on a good note, what is good for one horse might be different for another so make sure your expectations coincide with your horse’s training level.

Exercise 2

The distance in the middle between opposite cavalettis should be 10.5 meters with the cavalettis on the highest setting. Make sure when you’re walking this out that the two distances cross over in the centre at 5.2 meters. This will help you make the circle as accurate as possible, which will make it easier to ride.

To start this exercise canter over two cavaletti that are opposite each other. Do that once or twice then continue the circle without skipping any. To begin with, ride middle to middle where you will get 3 strides in between each cavaletti, then ride to the outside where you will get four strides in between. Remember to do in both directions.

The last progression; alternating the number of strides between cavaletti. Three then four then three and so on. To do this ride to the middle then the outside then back to the middle.

Exercise 3

Two cavaletti, on the highest setting, set up in the shape of a ‘V’ where you will ride a figure-8. Riding out over the sides of the ‘V’ and not in. This is a great tool to use to teach you horse to follow your eye, balance on the turn and land on the correct lead. If your horse has a tendency to fall in or out, it will be very noticeable with this exercise. This is only done the one way but, because it’s a figure-8, you will be working both sides of the horse. Repetition is your friend, repeat until it becomes smooth and easy or you have seen an improvement.

Try to:

· Ride to the middle

· Turn your head and look to the next cavaletti

· Use your outside aids to turn

· Keep the quality in the canter

· Can open your inside hand slightly over the cavaletti to encourage the horse to land on the correct lead

Cool Down

The cooling out phase is just as important as warming up, so don’t skip this because you’re watching the clock. Just like the warm up, we want the horse to stretch forward and downward, stretching out all the muscles along the top line and hind quarters. You should do this in both trot and canter in both directions, remember to get off your horse’s back into a forward seat when stretching in the canter.

At competitions, you will see the real horsemen and women come out and stretch their horses after their rounds.

Talk to you all next month!

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