3 Gridwork Elements You Should Add to Your Riding Exercises


Grid work is undoubtedly one of the best ways to build rider and horse confidence, as well as improve technique and work on your own position. Really, grid work is the jumping equivalent of transitions – it seems so simple, but it can improve almost everything. As such, grid work should be incorporated into your jumping training on a regular basis. 

If you regularly set up lines, grids, and gymnastics to improve your jumping, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Before you know it, you’re jumping pretty much the same line over and over again. And although there are literally thousands of variations you could use down a line, understanding some of the key elements which make up the most beneficial exercises can help you to get creative instead of relying on the same fences and distances time and again. 

So, here are some elements we often don’t include in our grids, and which you can mix and match to suit your horse’s needs and your goals. 

1. Cross Rails

Cross rails are for green horses and beginner riders, right? Absolutely not! Cross poles are often underutilized by riders, especially experienced riders. While you might use them to warm up for bigger fences, cross poles typically fall by the wayside thereafter, and aren't used to their full potential. But they aren't just for warming up your horse and getting your hours in!

They can and should play a fairly important role in a lot of grids. Firstly, because they present an inviting way for young or green horses to enter a grid without feeling overwhelmed. When your horse just starts grids, this can be a really easy way to get them to enter confidently so they can build up experience over larger fences without having to come to them as single fences. 

Secondly, crosses are useful in grids because they are fantastic for encouraging both horse and rider to stay straight thanks to their higher sides. For horses or riders who tend to jump to one side or lean, you can incorporate them into non-traditional parts of grids either, like the middle or end! 

And thirdly, cross poles are also excellent for improving horse technique as they get taller. Again, this is because of the higher sides, which encourages the horse to tuck his knees up and bascule. Experienced horses can use cross poles which have very steep sides, while less experienced horses and riders should stick to smaller crosses which have less potential to scare a horse. 

2. Ground Poles 

Ground poles can be used in a lot of different lines. Typically, you’ll automatically think of placing poles. 

Placing poles are often seen in the start of grids, but can be utilized in so many ways. Of course, there’s the traditional method of putting them before the first fence as trotting or canter poles – this is useful to ensure your horse gets a good take off spot to the first fence. But there’s no reason they can’t serve the same purpose in between fences – especially in grids with longer distances (such as three strides, for instance). 

When used within the grids (with flat boards or planks ideally, to prevent tripping) poles also serve plenty of uses. Firstly, they can help a rider to ‘feel’ the right pace. By setting them up at the ideal canter stride distance, the horse naturally tends to open his stride to the right length. This natural tendency can also be used to help ride slightly longer or shorter distances – a horse will likely stretch out more or shorten his stride more over poles than left to his own devices between fences. 

They can also help to regulate the pace, ensuring the horse doesn’t change rhythm through the line. Typically, this is to help a horse who rushes by setting them at even distances so the horse is encouraged to maintain his tempo. This can be used before, throughout, or even after the grid to help promote a steady rhythm. 

Plus, canter poles are also very helpful in developing a horse’s athleticism and agility. Just like canter poles on the ground, they help to engage the hind leg and lift the forehand. That alone should result in a better jump, but can also help lazy horses to keep focused through the grid.

Rider on gray horse jumping over fence in outdoor arena

3. Doubles and Trebles

In every jumping competition, you’ll encounter a one or two stride double. With the exception of very small classes, in which case they are sometimes left out to make it easier for inexperienced horses and riders to have a positive round at a show. As you go further up the heights, you’ll start to see trebles appearing on course too. So it stands to reason that practicing these as often as possible will prepare you well for the future if you want to compete. 

Adding an oxer to oxer, vertical to vertical, or vertical and oxer pairing on either a one or two stride distance is something which should be in most of your grids. You’ll find them in all courses, with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the level and venue. 

You’ll want to change the double or treble up frequently to represent what you might see at shows, as well as what you and your horse find most challenging. Riding these through a grid helps your horse to get good placement to each element of the double or treble, so you can build confidence about getting in and out of them cleanly and easily. 


So there you have it – your grids should incorporate ground poles, cross rails, and double and treble elements as often as possible. Although often under-utilized in jumping exercises, they can all be added to grids to help you and your horse develop your skills and get show-ready. 

Leave a comment below letting us know what your favorite grid exercise is, and why you love it.

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