The Power of Cavaletties

wwwMG LR at Flanagans


Monty Roberts has given us much information about the language of equus. We are in his debt. Most important is that with Join-Up the horse makes a decision to come in and join up with the handler.

What we have learned is that the horse is much closer to the human than we have previously believed. The history of horse handling is peppered with the belief that the horse is a brute beast that can only be controlled with force. None of this is true.

In fact horses are mammals with skeletons that compare closely to ours. Our relationship is not that distant. Indeed the horse suffers with anxieties and fears and affections just as we do.

Are you inclined to obey if someone says to you, “you must.” This tends to make our hackles rise. We are possibly more inclined to comply if someone says, ”Could you please?” But best of all is when someone leaves us to make up our own mind. This releases motivation. Without motivation there is nothing. If you can allow a horse to want to do something you are in clover.

When we train horses we need to release motivation. How do we motivate a horse?

Going nicely

Allow me to introduce some problems. I see many horses that are frightened to jump. They clear poles by miles, sweating and excited, they look as if they love it all but in fact they are on adrenaline. I can guarantee that those horses that throw themselves at jumps have never been schooled over cavalettis.

I have heard that cavalettis are no longer considered safe by the BHS. That of course is their call. I have made cavalettis out of overflow piping and small cross trees. They are totally safe. A horse can stand on them kick then and nothing happens.

This is what you want.

What they offer to the horse is an opportunity to learn. When I work over the cavalettis I allow the horse to avoid them. (They are only a meter and a half long.) I never force the horse over them, I wait until he chooses to cope with them. In the end they all do. All the horse has to do is make a decision. Finally they work out how to manage this tiny pole and lift his feet at the correct time. I always start at a walk with one cavaletti. I do this on both reins. It is important to realize that horses are also left or right handed. They also do not transfer information they see on one side to the other side of their brain. It is essential to complete all exercises on both sides.

Me Jump?
“They look a bit beneath me.”

Once I have the horse going over the cavalettie quietly having decided to walk over it without me interfering I give him two to do. I place them at a distance. Once he does two at a walk I then place them a meter apart and ask the horse to trot over them. Then I keep on changing the rein and repeating this time and again until calmness and a good performance is achieved and I stop.

I have never had a horse that has not benefitted from this simple system of schooling and also every horse I have worked in this way has changed his jumping habits and calmed down and learned not to be afraid of the pole and log over anything from a trot. That is what we want, no adrenaline. Monty always said, ‘adrenaline up learning down, adrenaline down learning up.’

Worth remembering.

Caroline Baldock

How to make the Cavaletties.

Purchase 2×2 sections each 2 foot in length. Overflow pipe and plastic pipe clips. Screws + central screws 3 inches with wing nuts.

Drill hole in the center of each pair of crosstrees. Align screw at centre with wing nut. Mark wood where they cross over. Remove the screw and chisel out small slot for the cross trees to fit together. Replace the screw and tighten. Screw plastic pipe clips to the cross bar. Purchase overflow pipe.