“Positive Tension”

How Ground Poles Promote “Positive Tension”

There are many advantages that gymnastic exercises with ground poles can offer. For many horses, it’s difficult to maintain an even tempo over a longer period of time. Working over poles is a way to both improve and check up on the horse’s rhythm. This work develops coordination, balance, and concentration for both horse and rider. At the same time, the rider develops a feel for the correct trot, active hindquarters, and lifted back. The rider learns to maintain a “positive tension” (also referred to as “tone” or “engagement”) in her body, even as she stays loose enough to follow the horse’s movement.

The hindquarters are active, as the horse must lift his hind legs significantly higher than usual in order to clear the poles, and the coordination of the dorsal and ventral muscle chains is thereby developed. This causes the horse to lift his back and engage the nuchal ligament of his neck.


Skeletal muscles function via muscle chains. These chains connect different regions of the body with one another and allow the horse to move. The dorsal and ventral muscle chains are the most well-known—they work antagonistically (against one another).

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