Patterns for the Weekend: The Garrocha Challenge

Try this challenge to improve your horse’s maneuverability and your timing!

This pattern is an excerpt from  The Working Equitation Training Manual, in which trainer and Working Equitation competitor Ali Kermeen explains how to introduce your horse to the garrocha pole and ride a basic pattern with it.

Practice working with a traditional garrocha pole (used in Spain to move cattle rather than ropes) and you and your horse will gain confidence with handling the pole before it becomes part of an exercise or obstacle in a Working Equitation course.

You need a pole that is 8 to 14 feet (2.4 to 4.2 meters) long. This can be a garrocha, closet rod, pool-cleaning pole, or bamboo stalk. You also need a helper on foot when first introducing the pole to your horse.

How Do I Do This?

  1. Ride a walk in a straight line in an area free from fences or obstacles.
  2. Have your helper drag the pole on the ground as she walks parallel to you and your horse.
  3. Have your helper decrease the distance between the pole and the horse as your horse gains confidence.
  4. Have your helper place one end of the pole on your thigh as the rest drags on the ground.
  5. Have your helper carry the pole parallel with the ground, decreasing the distance between the pole and the horse as the horse gains comfort.
  6. Have the helper rotate the pole from horizontal to vertical so that the pole swings up past the horse’s eye.
  7. Repeat on both sides of the horse.
  8. The rider can now hold the pole with one hand, and the reins in the other hand.

Keep in Mind…

  • Practice these techniques without the horse present at first. Both the rider and helper must be relaxed and comfortable with handling the pole if the horse is to gain confidence with it.
  • The rider should use her eyes, legs, and seat, riding the horse straight and forward.
  • Be aware that you do not box the horse in against a fence or obstacle.
  • The rider is allowed to drop the pole at any time if the horse has a hard time accepting it.

Photo by Kathy Colman


  1. Rider and helper pass the pole back and forth between them.
  2. Ride toward the helper rather than the helper coming toward the horse.
  3. Helper can stand still with the pole held steady at a 50-degree angle from the ground. Rider can circle helper until horse is comfortably passing under the pole.

Now Try This Exercise: Crinolina

This will improve your geometry and one-handed riding. You and your horse will be better in tune with minimal rein cues. You will become more confident with pole handling, and your horse will gain confidence with the pole.

Illustration by Ali Kermeen

How Do I Do This?

  1. Take your reins in one hand, and the end of the pole in the other hand.
  2. The other end of the pole is on the ground.
  3. Keep the downward tip of the pole in the same spot on the ground and ride a circle around it.

Keep in Mind…

  • Use your rein hand for flexion, and steer primarily with your seat and leg.
  • If you keep your hand in the same place on the pole, and the tip of the pole stays in the same place on the ground, you have made a perfect circle.
  • The hand holding your pole should stay in front of your body.


  1. Hold your pole in your outside hand and your reins in your inside hand.
  2. Spiral your circle down until the pole is perpendicular to the ground. Allow your hand to slide down the pole as your circle gets smaller.
  3. Allow the pole to drag behind your horse and draw a large circle (10 to 20 meters) on the ground.

This excerpt from The Working Equitation Training Manual by Ali Kermeen is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books. You can purchase the book here.