Cavaletti – How to Build It + Exercises

Small yet mighty, the cavaletti is the understated training tool that is versatile enough to be used in multiple disciplines and training levels, yet powerful enough to transform any equine.

The wonderful thing about cavalettis is that the you don’t need to break the bank to afford your own set.  In fact, you can make your own set of cavalettis inexpensively right at home.

Read on for our top four DIY cavaletti building instructions and our favorite exercises for the walk, trot, and canter!

How To Build Cavaletti

Our first DIY cavaletti tutorial comes from The Other Horse. We love how straightforward and easy these cavalettis are to make! Using only 2” x 4” wood planks, these DIY cavalettis are perfect for completely novice carpenters, as they don’t require any complicated cuts.

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Our second cavaletti tutorial comes from Texas Horseman’s Directory. The benefit of this cavaletti’s construction is that the wood posts, being a square four inches by four inches, will have fewer points of weakness and fewer seams to cover with paint. However, the skill required to make the appropriate cuts with the saw are best suited for someone with some carpentry experience.

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Departing from the classic model of cavalettis in horseback riding is this design by John Madden of Practical Horseman Magazine. Though the directions are not explicit, you can easily make these jumps using 4” x 4” x 8’ wood posts and affix them to a 16” x 12” rectangle with marine plywood or plywood that is at least ¾” thick (recommendations from Chronicle of the Horse Forums). Attach the wood posts with L-brackets to your square plywood with the post off-set so as to have the option rotate the jump to change the height, as you would with the classic cavaletti.

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This DIY cavaletti uses a creative combination of PVC pipe and inexpensive Ikea potties! If you're looking for a good, lightweight, alternative to wood you need to check this out (and use google translate to get all the details).

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Now that you have your own blueprint for homemade cavalettis, here are our favorite exercises to use them with your horse: one for the walk, trot, and canter.

Cavaletti Exercise - Walk

The walk is the horse’s foundational gait. If a horse’s walk is hollow, crooked, or stiff, the rest of his gates will be, also. The walk is also where a horse can rewire his neurological pathways to move in a more relaxed, expressive manner. Our current favorite walking exercise comes from Horse Journals:

Stretch & Climb Through: Arrange a row of four ground poles lying parallel to one another spaced apart at the distance of a regular walk stride (approx. 2 feet, 8 inches), followed by a 20-foot distance with no poles, and then four poles spaced slightly closer than a regular walk stride and raised to a height of 8 to 12 inches.

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Cavaletti Exercise - Trot

Working the horse at the trot will improve their overall cardiovascular health, as well as strengthen their core, both in their topline and under-carriage. To strengthen a horse’s obliques, as well, look for trot exercises that involve bending. Here is a great exercise to develop a horse’s self-carriage at the trot from Horse Magazine:

Arrange a centerline of three sets of two poles each. Arrange cavalettis on the outside of the middle set of poles. Ride a serpentine pattern through each set of poles.

For extra practice, ride walk-trot transitions through the centerline between serpentines.

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Cavaletti Exercise - Canter

Last but not least, utilizing cavalettis to enhance the horse’s canter will reap many benefits. Canter practice can increase the horse’s ability to loosen and round their topline, as well as engage their hind end to generate more power. This simple canter exercise from Ros at Horse & Rider will help your horse do just that:

Using the short side of the arena, place three cavaletti poles with three to four strides between each (about 39-55 feet). Depending on you and your horse’s comfort level, you can adjust the cavaletti height. Use these distances to get your horse comfortably cantering four strides between each set of cavalettis, then adjust their stride to get three fuller strides.

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Cavalettis help ensure that horses use different muscle groups during training.  

They encourage them to lift their necks higher and farther outward, meanwhile lifting their backs and engaging their hind end more freely.

Optimize the effectiveness of your conditioning time by incorporating these simple exercises into your riding routine.

Do you use cavaletti? Share your tips below!

Get 4 easy DIY options to build your own horse Cavaletti at home, plus fun Cavaletti training exercises for the walk, trot and canter.

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