Figure eight for simple change of lead I
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 02:29 PM
I like to introduce my horse to a change of rein in canter through a figure eight. I find that bending lines and big circles help my horse keep his balance, engagement and pace. With figure eight you have numerous options from very easy to very difficult with almost unlimited variations in between.
    To know if you and your horse are ready to start working on change of rein in canter check the following points:
  • Your seat is balanced and supple, you feel comfortable riding trot and canter
  • You can easily execute a figure eight of 20 to 15 m circles in trot
  • You can pick up canter on both leads
  • You can make transition back to trot with enough balance to continue on 20 m circle
  • You can canter a 20 m circle
  • Your horse's canter and trot are steady, his transitions are prompt, he is not running before or after canter
You can spend your whole riding session on figures eight, eventually riding one in canter. Put two markers at the center of your arena to indicate a "gate" where you will change from one circle to another. Make the distance between markers of minimum 10 feet. It will give you a good visual aid without making you worry you will miss it. Start your warm up in walk and ride figure eight of 20 m circles. Get a feel of your line, how much aids you need to bend your horse, how smoothly you can execute a change of bend. Try different sizes of the circles(m): 20, 17, 15, 12, 10. When things are going smoothly ask for a halt right in your "gate". Make sure you give your horse brakes going large on long reins.
When you feel comfortable in walk start your figure eight of 20 m in rising trot. Again focus on your line, bending aids, change of bend, steadiness of your trot. Be aware that 20 m circle is quite round. Do not make sharp turns right in front of the "gate". Everything should flow smoothly. Give your horse a brake sometimes and ride him forward in trot going large. It is a good idea to change direction and ride your figure eight from other side.
After a walk brake ride a figure eight of 15 m circles in trot. Ride a transition to walk right before the "gate". Walk through the gate and ask for trot again. Repeat this pattern until your horse starts to anticipate walk transitions and promptly responds to your leg for the upward transition. Your figure eight should flow very smoothly with steady pace and good balance. Riding correct line is very important. Variation: You can halt in the "gate" instead of walk.
If previous exercises feel difficult to you do not start cantering your figure eight right away. Spend a few days working in trot. Canter your horse on 20 m circle and pass through the "gate" but do not ride a figure eight. I will explain the canter figure eight in the next blog.
Happy riding...
 
Comment by Dultfitte on Saturday, August 2, 2008 10:25 PM
I agreed with you
 
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