This exercise/layout is not meant to necessarily be achieve all in one session, especially for those horses new to poles, young horses or those rehabilitating. I have used the diagram to show the progressive way the exercise can be introduced, you can add another level each week for example, but follow your horses lead and only move on when you have established rhythm , balance and harmony over and in-between the poles at each level.
The first part in 4 poles on the center line with 4.5 ft between each of them (green pen). This distance can vary from ponies to horses, come over in trot and assess whether you think they maybe too close or too far apart and you can always adjust them. If your horse continues to knock the poles, or not keep an even rhythm this can be a sign you need to adjust the distance between them.
Once your horse is keeping a even rhythm over the 4 poles you can choose to introduce further poles on the straight line maybe 6 then 8 then 10 or more! The more poles the longer time your horse spends using their core muscle for stability and posture so the greater benefit. Please remember to introduce them gradually as just like us starting a new gym class they will have aches and pains.
You can then progress to adding in the triangle at each end of the line (purple pen). I would suggest walking through this first as some horses can be a little spooky with the triangle, thinking its a trap. Once confident in walk test your ability to stay straight by then doing it in trot. Then you can progress to walking and or trotting over the tip of the triangle on a circle line (exercise 3). The closer to the tip you are the shorter the stride, the wider out you go the bigger the stride needed. You can add poles either side of the triangle (shown in orange and pink pen) to have more poles on the circle line.
All the building of this plan is now complete and you can move onto, when you are ready, the more complex lines, the shallow loop and change of bend (exercises 5 & 6).
The most important thing is to progress gradually and ensure you have the correct striding for your horse. If you think the poles are placed correctly but you are still knocking them you may just need more energy/impulsion.
If you have any problems with this exercise please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with a video would be great too!