A Guide to Grid Work

by Faye Raw

Why do grid work?

Setting up grid work may seem like a massive hassle and take a while but the benefits for both horse and the rider outweigh the setting up time. With one simple grid you can do so many different exercises that can help improve rhythm, balance, technique, confidence, suppleness and the riders position.


Step 1 – Begin with trotting poles approx 1.4m to work on rhythm and balance. Try to keep your rhythm the same, not letting the horse speed up or slow down.

Step 2 – Add 1 or 2 bounce fences approx 3.6m apart over cross-poles after your trotting poles. Using cross-poles will encourage your horse to stay straight. Using a taller cross-pole will also encourage your horse to start rounding and using his shoulder.

Step 3 – Next, build up your grid by adding from the last bounce fence two strides approx 10m to an oxer then one stride approx 6.4m to an upright (keep the fences relatively low and simple). These additional elements will help to sharpen your horse up in front and build his strength behind.

Step 4 – To up the difficulty you can make your trotting poles into cavaletti’s (raised poles).

Step 5 – The next step is to add one stride then an oxer to the end of your grid. To further increase the difficulty, gradually widen the rails of your oxer to increase your horse’s stretch and arc over the fence. Take care not to do this too early in your horse’s training and don’t make the oxer too high – if you do and your horse isn’t ready for it you will risk knocking his confidence.

Step 6 – Have fun, don’t forget to breath and stay positive!

 How to ride down a grid?

The main thing is DO NOT PANIC! You may come around the corner and see a line of fences and panic mode sets in, so take a deep breath and think.

First of all, you need to make sure your approach is straight, just like you would to any other fence. Don’t rush, just because you maybe have 3/4 fences in front of you does not mean you need speed! Give your horse time to think for himself, you want to encourage your horse to “round” and make a better shape. Approach from trot to start off with until you feel confident enough to come in canter (if it’s required for that exercise). Start off small, build up from poles on the floor, then build up to jumps adding them in 1 at a time and praise your horse. Remember this a confidence building exercise for both the horses and rider!

  • Be straight
  • Do not rush
  • Start off small
  • Look up
  • Praise

How often should you do it?

Ideally once a week so you can aim for a gradual improvement. Remember doing grid work is gymnastics for horses, so consider your horses’ fitness. Over the weeks your horses’ fitness and strength will increase so then you can start progressing onto adding more and bigger fences.

What not to do.

  • Don’t guess, if you’re unsure of the distance use a tape measure.
  • Don’t overdo it, consider your horses’ fitness

pole distances

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