It is probably the most ridden shape for most riders, the trusty circle. And yet, a lot of circles are uninteresting, uninspiring, and (if we’re being completely honest here) a total waste of time for you and your horse.
When ridden with a little intention and purpose, the trusty circle can become one of the greatest ways to develop your horse and improve your skills.
Here are 3 exercises you can ride next time you’re in the arena to help you make the most of your circles with your horse.
1. Counting Strides on the Circle
This is a great way to practice and work on some basics in your riding. By knowing how many strides you are riding on a specifically sized circle, you can begin to ‘test’ yourself and your horse.
Start with counting strides to see if you can ride the same number consistently on each consecutive circle.
Once you have your number and can maintain it, you can then begin to ask different questions. Shortening the strides to fit more into each circle. Or lengthening to fit less. You can also play with tempo while you do this exercise.
2. Leg Yielding on a Circle
Circles, in and of themselves, are a great way to build and develop suppleness in both horse and rider. However, you can take this a step further by incorporating lateral work into your circle.
By asking your horse to leg yield while continuing to ride the circle, you can ask different questions around both straightness and suppleness – for you and your horse.
I find that this exercise also helps riders to become more aware of their own straightness in the saddle. Couple this with the fact that, for many riders, rhythm can be a challenge, it truly is a great exercise to incorporate into your riding plans.
3. Accurate Transitions on a Circle
The final way I suggest making better use of the versatile circle is to become intentional with transitions while on it. Moving up and down the gears, whether between gaits or inside of a gait, will test both horse and rider.
Transitions on a circle are a great way of ‘tuning’ both horse and rider to each other.
The preparation involved before each transition, the lightness through the transition, and the quality of the gait after each one is a great way to test horse and riders balance.
Riding A Circle
So, next time you are in the arena, give one or two of these a go. By beginning to ride each circle with a little more intention, you can dramatically improve the quality of your schooling.
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