Sponsored Rider Exercise: Pole Work with Andrea Baxter

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This time last year, sponsored rider Andrea Baxter was in final preparations for the United States’ only 5* eventing competition, known as the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event. For this equestrian and others, spring usually means ramping up to perform at some of the most important competitions of the year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these competitions are either cancelled or postponed and many riders are exploring a different rhythm of life.

Andrea has taken this opportunity to give her competition horses time to enjoy the green California grass. While the more experienced steeds spend their days grazing, the younger horses get their education in the arena. Andrea says her up-and-coming horses have been doing lots of pole work and grid work recently to “get their feet moving and their brains thinking”. We felt like we could take a page out of her book, so we went to see how this world-class rider is spending her time at home.

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When Andrea isn't competing at the highest levels of the sport, she spends her time training young event horses.

The exercise set up in Andrea's arena at the moment is a bending set of poles. Sounds simple, right? Even though the poles are inviting enough for a young horse, you might be surprised how challenging they can be for those who are more accomplished. She set four poles nine feet apart at the wide side, so that the horses can take two even steps between poles at the trot or bounce them at the canter. Andrea raised the inside of each rail, but she advised that you could raise both sides as well.

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The exercise may look simple, but don't underestimate the power of ground poles.

Andrea noted that it is crucial to keep the horse bending around your inside leg through the exercise. She also advised riders to make sure that the horse doesn’t cut in on the circle or drift outwards. Whether you choose to ride over the middle, inside, or outside of the poles, you should do the same for each pole with even steps in between.


The data you see in the top right corner is coming from the Hylofit Heart Rate Monitor. Andrea uses the system so she can see how much harder her horse has to work as he trots and canters over the poles. As Andrea uses the Hylofit system, both horse and rider heart rate are shown in real-time on the Hylofit app, then the data is stored to look at as a summary after the ride ends. For this exercise, Andrea’s horse stayed around Zone 2 to 3 which correlates with light to moderate work.

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The Hylofit System's post-ride insights can deepen your understanding of your ride.

With competitions cancelled or postponed, this is uncharted territory for many riders whose lives revolve around the sport. You might find that the best thing for your horse during this time is a vacation, or maybe you feel like staying in work might benefit them more. Either way, it’s never a bad time to learn something new. If you feel up to it, take this opportunity to pull out your notebook out and go to the internet to see what your favorite riders have to teach you. Remember, we are all in this together!
 
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