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Does Your Horse Rush Through Trot Poles?

Submitted by member: Diana

I have a 5-year-old Warmblood who goes and thinks he is a thoroughbred that is a bit on the hot/forward side. My trainer had me trot poles, and as I went through them, my horse wanted to get a bit quick. My trainer wanted me to post the trot and not to sit it while going through the poles. My instincts told me to sit the trot when I could feel he wanted to “rush” through them. When do you sit the trot? What is sitting the trot used for? Was it incorrect of me to do so in order to slow my horse down?

Thank you very much.

Answer by Stacia Madden

When using trot poles or cavaletti, there are many different distances you can use. I always have riders post the trot so that the rider is off the back while the horse is trying to negotiate the rail. For a horse that tends to rush the cavaletti, I use an exercise where the rails are far enough apart so that the rider can ask the horse to walk the first rail and then pick up a trot (sitting or posting) and then come back to the walk for the second rail. Once the horse does this well, then I would have the rider try trotting the poles in a line at the posting trot.

Another approach is to circle or figure eight the first rail until the horse is accepting and relaxed before you move on to the same pattern at the second rail. Once good timing and balance is achieved, try the two rails in a line at the posting trot. I only have riders sit on the horse’s back in a light full seat at the walk when using rails or cavaletti.

If your horse really rushes the rails, you could try and approach the line, as the horse starts to get anxious halt and then walk the rail. Next time halt a bit closer before allowing the horse to walk the rail. To test your progress, try trotting the exercise at the posting trot.

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Stacia Madden

Stacia Klein Madden stands out as one of the most successful and dedicated trainers of young, developing show jumping talent in the United States. She was a top junior rider from Indiana winning the 1987 ASPCA Maclay Finals and placed in both the AHSA Medal Finals and the USET Finals East. As a professional rider, she was highly successful in both the hunter and jumper ring showing top hunters Another Affair, Copper Creek, Dark Harbor, Hidden Treasure, Kawamha, and Manifesto to championships at shows such as Winter Equestrian Festival, Devon Horse Show, Lake Placid Horse Shows, Hampton Classic, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, and The National Horse Show before shifting her concentration to the training aspect of the business. From Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, New Jersey, she has trained several of the most promising junior riders - riders who have potential to represent the United States at the highest levels of International competition. The Chronicle of the Horse awarded Beacon Hill Show Stables Show Hunter Horseman of the Year in 2005. Visit her website:

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