More than half a century ago, Bertalan de Nemethy, the legendary former coach of the U.S. show jumping team, introduced cavaletti to the U.S. system of training jumping horses. For decades they were hard to find, but today?s riders can chose between more than a dozen different kinds or make
Cavaletti should be light enough to easily carry and move around the ring, and they should have three quickly adjustable heights. They must also be extremely durable, able to withstand horses stepping on them. We tested nine different products, looking for the best choice for a professional stable and one that's extremely cost-effective for anyone (including professionals).
Multi-Discipline.The original cavalleti design is a six- to eight-foot pole with an X secured to each end that allows the user to turn the cavalleti and have the option of three different heights. Traditional cavalleti should be balanced enough to be stacked for higher jump heights.
Cavalleti should be stable and not move much if the horse touches them, while schooling at the walk, trot and canter.
Although many riders write off cavaletti as just ahunter/jumper training tool, these miniature jumps can help any horse and rider ? in any discipline ? improve balance and rhythm and develop suppleness. They?re also a wonderful way to break up arena-bound boredom and to practice trail classes and trail riding. You can start with a pole on the ground and work your way up. (We will have more short pieces on schooling with cavalleti in future issues.)
Traditional Sets.The Jumps West Classic Klimke is exactly what de Nemethy and legendary German horseman Reiner Klimke designed and used extensively: two X-shaped end pieces holding a single round rail and adjustable to three heights, with a weight light enough to be easily carried around the ring.
Ingrid Klimke, Reiner?s daughter, one of Germany?s top international riders in both eventing and dressage, designed the Jumps West model. Its three heights are 1? to 5? higher than standard cavaletti, making them particularly versatile and beneficial in your training program.
At the lowest height (6?), they?re perfect for teaching all horses balance and developing their strength and suppleness. At the maximum height (20?), they?re perfect in a gymnastic line or other jumping exercises.
The other traditional cavalleti with pole attached came from Silk Tree. This cavaletti requires assembly when it arrives. One tester completed the task in less than 20 minutes, while another was unable to assemble it.
The manufacturer states the plastic is unbreakable and will not degrade. The rails are squared rather than round and have open ends, as do the Xs. We're told that this is a purposeful design to help the cavalleti stay in place better and grip the arena surface. The Sillk Tree cavaletti are also easy to move from place to place.
Spin-Offs. Bloks are a staple of cavaletti that have been available for about 20 years. These are squared plastic boxes
at you turn, like traditional cavaletti, to get three different heights. You use your own rail with them.
They?re so durable they?d probably survive a nuclear winter, and they?re
lightweight (about 6 pounds each), easy to carry because they have built-in handles, and they?re extremely versatile (you can use them as groundlines or fillers f
or jumps or as cones or guides for lessons on the flat). Their highest setting (24?) is higher than most traditional cavaletti, so the Bloks are an excellent value for training jumping horses.
Another choice in plastic-box designs, the Horsemen?s Pride Jump Blocks can actually hold two poles, so you can make a narrow oxer if you choose. (Bloks can only hold one pole at a time.) Both products are designed to be stacked two high, and we found Jump Blocks to be more stable when stacked on their narrow edges.
We also liked the plastic Horsemen?s Pride Rail Razers. They can be easily handled and stored, and they would be a boon to a lesson program relying on ponies or old horses, because they?d provide just enough height. They would also be cost-effective for increasing strength and suppleness in dressage horses, trail horses or other non-jumping horses.
Bottom Line.We think the Classic Klimke cavaletti are a must-have item for any professional training stable. They are top-of-the line and you are paying that quality.
The better choice for the rest of us, and our favorite in traditional cavaletti, is the Jumps West Economy Cavaletti. They look virtually the same as the Klimkes. We prefer its wooden construction and design, with rounded poles and closed ends over the squared Silk Tree product.
For budgets and variety, you may prefer the products that allow you to add your own rail. The Horsemen?s Pride Jump Blocks are available in more colors, stack slightly better, and allow you to make oxers, but they cost about twice as much as the Bloks and don't sufficiently warrant the price difference to us. Therefore, our Best Buy choice is the Bloks. They are a highly cost-effective addition to anyone?s ring.
Article by John Strassburger, our Performance Editor.