Riding a circle
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, May 5, 2008 03:12 PM
Circles are one of the most basic training exercises for a horse and yet one of the most poorly executed. There is a few misconceptions that are very persistent. Once learned they stay with the rider throughout his/her life and do not allow proper balance for a rider/horse combination.
Before I get to the explanations I want to remind everyone that core stability is what keeps everything together. You will not be able to ride a circle properly without strong core that connects your upper body to your lower body. It helps you to fight centrifugal forces, especially in trot and canter.
Alignment of upper body - One of the most common misconceptions is turning your upper body before your horse starts his turn. Riders do not realize that they do not execute the turn, their horse does. It doesn't matter how much you turn your shoulders your horse will not interpret it as a signal to turn. What that does is it creates problems. Your upper body rotates toward the center of a circle, inside shoulder back, inside hand pulling backwards. Outside shoulder advancing, outside hand losing contact with the horse's mouth. Your horse following your inside hand turns his head inside, this disturbs his balance, he collapses on his outside shoulder and may not turn at all.
What you need to do to initiate the turn (circle is a continuous turn, until you arrive back at the starting point): Do not rotate your shoulders. Keep the shoulder line perpendicular to your horse's body. Open your inside rein to direct the horse. Keep your outside elbow connected to your side and feel quiet contact with the outside rein. In a way, wait for your horse to turn, do not get ahead of him, he will take you with him.
Seat (your seat consists of your pelvic bone between seatbones and pubic bone, insides of your thighs and knees) - Another misconception is putting too much weight on your inside seatbone. This will make you lean inside the circle too much and you will lose contact with the outside seatbone. Losing contact with the outside seatbone will prevent you to control your horse's haunches. Feel solid contact on your outside seatbone. Your outside seatbone is slightly behind your inside one. This helps to use your whole outside leg to control the haunches. And it helps to direct the outside of your horse around into the turn. Your outside thigh and knee will help with the task - gently press your outside thigh and knee toward your horse's inside ear. Note: Leaning inside a circle can come from lack of core strength. Leaning in helps to fight centrifugal forces without engaging the core.
Inside leg - The third common mistake is to think of your inside leg only as your lower leg. Solid contact of your inside thigh with the saddle is very important. It helps to fight centrifugal forces that are trying to throw you outside. And it helps to create a sort of "a pillar" around which your horse's body will bend. Usually right-handed riders feel more connected going left because their left thigh is stronger and more solid. Right thigh is very mobile and light, it is hard to keep it down and connected to a saddle. Riders feel that they lose balance and grab the inside rein for support. When in fact it is their right thigh that is failing to work properly. With the well schooled horse you do not even need lower inside leg, just the inside thigh and knee are enough to create a bend. And the whole inside leg is most important aid to create the bend. Just using inside rein will not be enough. There is more: softness on inside rein is not something you actively create by constantly working inside rein. The softness on inside rein is a consequence of a proper bend and balance.
As you can see from the above, your outside aids: rein and leg that connected through your body are creating a sort of a barrier. They do not allow the horse to fall through to the outside. Your outside aids regulate the size of the circle. Your inside leg is responsible for bend with the help of the inside rein that directs the horse inside. The phrase from inside leg to outside rein is emphasizing the importance and prevalence of these aids. However, you should never forget about the whole package.
Happy riding...
Comment by Helen Mark on Friday, September 17, 2010 02:12 AM
Thankyou so much...I am a green rider with a green youngster. This is exactly what I needed to understand :)
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