using poles and cavaletti for horse rehabilitation

Horses have their own comfort zones and habits they revert too when uncertain or worried. With Big Guy, he exhibited that yesterday with his antsy behavior around the mounting block and his duck / bow / run behavior. He was obviously uncertain as to what I was planning and was worried about it all.


Today, was much, much better. First I worked him over poles (at a walk, on the ground) – some of which are ground poles and others being cavaletti. Here is the pattern we are currently working with (see left) – the red poles are cavaletti, the blue are ground poles, and the dotted black lines show direction.

This pattern is in the middle of my small, grass dressage arena so you can ride the rail, or use large 40 meter circles to approach and cross over the ground poles – or come down the center line to cross the cavaletti.

One thing that irritates me is people who call ground poles, cavaletti. Unless they are raised off the ground they are NOT cavaletti! And the gymnastic quality of a ground pole vs. a cavaletti is completely different.

For example, if  you pick up a 2# dumbell is that the same as a 10# dumbell? Of course not! They both can serve a purpose but only if you understand what they can do and not do.

The ground poles serve as a reminder for him to pick up his feet. These ground poles are 12′ long, 4″ diameter PVC pipe filled with 25# of sand, and capped at both ends. I would have preferred wooden poles but finding them in that length is impossible in my area.

Although, their weight makes them a bit clumsy for me to move around, I have appreciated their substance especially when working with a horse who loves to devise ways to evade working. Knocking them out of place is practically impossible.

When I cross the cavaletti, the side ground poles help with his alignment and aids in preventing him ducking out (something he learned from his former jumper career). However, I can also use them for more patterns by crossing over them as shown by the dotted lines.

During this Week One of a 6 week program of rehablitation for Big Guy, these cavaletti will help. On this first week, they are at their lowest setting, a mere 7 inches off the ground. Their design means you can rotate the X, and gain other heights (12″ and 17″), making the cavaletti harder gymnastically or even using them as low jumps.

Most people don’t use cavaletti because they don’t have access to them or don’t know how to build them. My own are built upon this plan provided by the Texas Horseman’s Directory. For the center rails, I ended up using PVC pipe again.

The only caution I have about PVC pipe is that it does grow brittle over time, especially if you are in a high-sunshine state like where I live. Always keep checking to make sure the poles and cavaletti are holding up before using them as weakened poles can shatter upon impact (and why I would not use it for jump material). Having said that though in 5 plus years my equipment is still going strong.

Books I highly recommend are Cavaletti by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke and Schooling with Ground Poles by Claire Lilley.

This entry was posted in equipment, horse with pelvis fracture, Riding, Training, Tristan and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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