Getting Started With Pole Bending
There's much more to excelling at pole bending than merely guiding a horse around poles. In this article, we'll describe the pattern that riders must follow in this event, common reasons why poles are knocked down and compensating for a "crooked" horse.
Running The PatternIn pole bending, 6 poles are positioned in a line. The poles are placed 21 feet apart. The rider and horse must follow a pattern through the poles in the quickest time possible without downing the poles. Each downed pole earns a 5-second penalty.
From the starting line, the rider runs the length of the poles on one side. Once the rider has reached the last pole, she must round the top of it and proceed back toward the starting line, weaving her horse through the poles. Once she reaches the pole nearest the starting line, she must round the bottom of it and weave her horse through the poles again toward the furthest pole. The final leg of the event requires the rider to guide her horse around the top of the furthest pole and gallop the length of the poles back to the starting line.
Reasons For Downed PolesThere are several causes for downed poles during this event. First, pole bending requires a level of precision unmatched by any other timed rodeo event. Many riders underestimate the skill required at high speeds and invariably knock the poles down. Second, horses often stiffen when rounding poles. A horse that flexes at the wrong time can position the rider too close to the pole, causing the rider to down the pole with her knee.
Third, direction changes require perfect timing. If a horse changes direction a second too soon, the rider's knee will often down a pole. Fourth, a horse that flexes in the wrong direction can cause downed poles. Ideally, a horse should flex in an arc that surrounds the pole. When the horse is inversely flexed, its flank can push the rider's knee into the pole.