I use cavalletti during my schooling with all my horses and the majority of my clients. There are some horses that benefit more from their use, but all horses seem to enjoy them and the fitness and agility they develop is worth the extra effort. One of my schoolmasters finds them completely entertaining, but has trouble with understanding how to use ground poles. He was a high level show jumper in his younger years and believes any pole on the ground is there for jumping. He can canter bounce through an entire series of ground poles with a big grin on his face! He wants to prove his athleticism even though he's 26!
Yesterday, I was working Junior through a series of alternating raised cavalletti (blocks are placed only at one end and then alternated by raising the left side then the right of the next). If you remember from my previous posts, Junior is crooked with his shoulders slightly left and his hips slightly right. If he's not really straight, he'll clip a pole or two as we trot over them. I have to be very careful how I make my corrections, however, since I can cause him to lose his balance and, in turn, lose confidence.
Once he was thoroughly warmed up and we worked the canter, I had an assistant move the blocks quite close together and rotate the blocks to the medium height. This would force Junior to really sit down and flex his joints in order to make it through the exercise...basically in passage. It took a few attempts before we were able to get the spacing just right, but once we had it, it was great fun! By the end, Junior was in wonderful self carriage all around the ring, carrying me along with a beautifully engaged core and as happy as a clam. Exercises like these teach a horse to be playful with their bodies and show off with their shoulders and knees.
I have loads of exercises with ground poles. We'll discuss more through the weeks ahead since cavalletti help to keep away the winter doldrums.