Training cavaletti – according to Ingrid Klimke
When you ask Ingrid Klimke, horses should be happy, healthy and strong. The famous rider competes in Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing at the highest level. All her horses are trained using cavaletti in walk, trot and canter. “All you need is four poles” Ingrid states. By using cavaletti in your training, you strengthen the back and backhand muscles of the horse.
Take 4 wooden jumping poles. That is all you need to train your horse in cavaletti. “If you just use 4 poles, your horse can jump over them if he makes a mistake or trips. When you use 6 or 8 poles that isn’t possible, so stick to 4. Cavaletti is simply placing wooden jumping poles on supports to lift them above the ground. First, train your horse to walk over the poles on the ground. If your training progresses, put them on supports. Her famous father, the late Dr Reiner Klimke also practised a lot of cavaletti with his horses. He thought Ingrid how to use this in training.
So why cavaletti? “Horses need to think, which makes it a very suitable exercise for a dressage arena, where training can get a bit boring for the horse. If the horse does well, change the exercise, so he has something new to think about. It is also a strengthening exercise. The horse needs to lift up his hind quarters higher than usual, which you can’t train in a regular dressage exercise”. If done correctly, the horse will also use and strengthen his back muscles, Ingrid explains. “The horse’s head is brought down wards, the back comes up and you give with the reins. This creates a stretch. In cadence and with schwung”.
How do you start with cavaletti? Start with a warm up. Ingrid has very strong ideas about how a warming up should look. “My father always said: ‘During the warm up, the horse needs to look like a four-year-old’. The horse needs to move easy and simple”. Is the warm up done, you place one pole on the ground.
Distances. “Always ride through the middle of the cavaletti poles. Distances between poles should be 90 cm in walk, 120 cm for trot and 2 meters for cavaletti in canter. Distances between poles are also determined by the horse; he needs to keep his rhythm. If the horse does well, slow down or speed up over the cavaletti”.
“Always start in walk and ride over the one pole. Then go over it in trot. Let the horse judge his own distance and don’t do it for him. My father always advised to start cavaletti on your horse’s good side first, never the ‘hard’ side.” “After the one pole you just build it up from there; progress to two poles and pay attention to your lines and consistent rhythm. After a while you will start to see the right distance and feel the rhythm. Ultimately progress to canter.”
In trot it is also good to train cavaletti on a circle, says Klimke. “Place the poles 120 cm apart through the middle. A larger horse with big steps can take the circle big, while a smaller horse can do a smaller circle. If the horse isn’t walking through his back, collect him more.” Ingrid often rides just two cavaletti in a collected trot. Then she let’s her horse walk for just one step, before trotting on again. You can progress by building up to two times two cavaletti with a few strides and transitions in between. “The hind quarters will come under the horse and it will require self-carriage. It can be a difficult exercise so in between cavaletti, he can relax. Besides going back in pace, you can also go more forwards. Another good exercise is turning in a circle of eight, to get your horse supple on both sides. Ride a circle to the left with two cavaletti in it, followed by a circle to your right with another two cavaletti. Make sure to ride forwards”.
There are so many different exercises available using cavaletti. “Ride a cavaletti in walk, turn around the hind quarters, ride over the cavaletti again and then turn on the forhand. In between training cavaletti it is good to train your half pass, change your paces to collected or extended trot, and back to half pass. It is important to keep a consistent rhythm. After these difficult exercises, give your horse a long rein and let him stretch. Relaxation is important. Make sure the horse relates positively to the exercise”.
Source: BIT Magazine (Netherlands)
Note: I am by no means a professional rider or instructor, I simply love reading any article I can find about horse riding, training tips and other useful info I can find. If you see any errors or disagree with anything, or would like to add anything, just let me know! Lieke – EUR Equestian