This is one of my favorite obstacle ideas that is simple to set up yet challenging to execute well. It is a great exercise for Shiloh and me, especially as the back up and turn on the hindquarters are difficult for him.
As with many other things, Shiloh came to me already knowing how to back up, sidepass, and do the turn on the forehand and hindquarters.
But he was quite rusty and tended to rush, throw his head in the air, muddle about, etc . . . He still struggles to maintain a rounder frame during the maneuvers, having a tendency to push down through the shoulders and raise his neck rather than relaxing and lengthening through the back.
I get the distinct impression it is actually physically difficult for him to relax and lengthen those top line muscles while moving undersaddle. I am hoping that the more I can encourage him to do it that it will occur to him that he can actually move with more fluidity than when he is stiff as a board.
Here are my favorite aspects of this particular obstacle set up:
-Only requires four ground poles
-Backing through the poles gives both horse and rider a little more structure to encourage a straighter back up than might be achieved without them
-Only requires one or two steps of turn on the forehand and hindquarters (great for practicing the maneuvers without requiring a full turn around)
I play around with the spacing of the poles, both between each set of parallel poles AND between the two sets themselves. I don’t want my horse to have to back too far between the two sets but yet I want enough room for us to complete the turn on the forehand and the turn on the hindquarters.
If you can arrange for a ground person the first time you set up this exercise, that person can help move the poles around so you can quickly try different settings. The general rule of thumb is to start off with a wider set up and narrow it as you can execute the exercise with increasing precision.
The first time I did this exercise with Shiloh, it was a bit of a disaster. Three of the four poles were completely rearranged as we weaved side to side. We did a pretty clean 1/8 turn on the forehand but muddled through the 1/8 turn on the hindquarters. Now, we can generally do the exercise without disturbing the poles, with a more even two-beat back up and with pretty clean turns. Progress!