Jack and Paula Curtis

"Helping People Understand Horses"

 Cavalletti and Gridwork

 We use cavalletti to help the horse develop properly in these key areas. Cavalletti work will be done in the saddle as well as on the ground.   

                    Body awareness- The horse learns how to become more careful while negotiating a series of poles or raised cavalletti.  We will stager the poles, differ their height and put them at varying distances so the horse has to think about where he places each foot. This simulates what a horse may negotiate when in nature, thus making him more surefooted.  Staggering cavalletti also encourages the horse to lower its head to analyze where the poles are placed.  By lowering his head he lifts his back and stretches his topline.  Nature offers us a perfect setting for natural cavalletti and greatly increases body awareness.


Riding in the desert over rough terrain helps increase body awareness. This horse understands the purpose in following Jacks forward focus.

                    Balance and self-carriage- Placing cavalletti at equal and correct distances for each gait, will encourage the horse to properly balance (with or without a rider) while maintaining correct cadence.  He learns to use  his body symmetrically developing both sides equally which helps the unbalanced one sided horse become more balanced.  It will also encourage the horse engage his hindquarters and lift his back. As the cavalletti training progresses you see a distinct development of self carriage with the horse effectively using his ring of muscles.

                    Rhythm- By properly placed poles for each gait,  the horse learns how to maintain a consistent rhythm, tempo, and cadence while negotiating the cavalletti.  This consistent rhythm and tempo can then be carried onto the flat.  It is important to understand each horses individual rhythm and stride length when starting them over cavalletti.  We always start where the horse is comfortable and then make adjustments from there.  As the training progresses the cavallitti can be placed at different heights or distances to encourage the horse to elevate, lengthen or shorten his stride while maintaining proper engagement and rhythm.

                    Conditioning- We consider conditioning to be mental as well as physicalMentally the horse becomes more confident and sure because he learns how to carefully place his feet. He becomes keen and thoughtful when negotiating obstacles. (jumps, natural banks, etc.) Physically, Work over the cavalletti helps build the muscles necessary for all disciplines. It increases the action, animation and expression of each of the gaits.  It helps the horse stretch and become more supple increasing the horses balance and self carriage.


Snow makes for a great natural form of cavalletti. This horse is confidently gathering through his topline.


Average distance for cavalletti at each gait:

This is just a basic guideline, each horse has a slightly different length of stride.  A Quarter Horse vs. a large Warmblood will have considerable differences in their length of stride.  Poles MUST be placed for the horse as an individual when beginning cavalletti work. Never overexpose the horse and cause him to be unsure or nervous in his work, always stay within his means. Only when the horse has become confident over cavalletti may you change the distance to encourage the horse to lengthen, shorten or elevate his stride. 

    Walk- 2ft 6in to 3ft 4in. between each rail and approximately 6-8inches in height.

    Trot- 4ft to 5ft  between each rail and approximately 6-8inches in height.

    Canter- 9ft to 10ft 6in between each rail and approximately 1foot to 1foot 8inches in height.



Paula progressing a green horse through a gymnastic grid. This horse is being ridden in a rope halter.

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