Last time I blogged about riding circles and the importance of correct bend. I use circles to warm my horse up, and during training sessions to maintain and correct imbalance.
Each corner is ¼ of a circle, if you ride it as a circle with correct bend, your horse will come to the straight side balanced. If your horse is unbalanced through the corners, he will be unbalanced on the straight side and any movement you chose to do will be compromised.
Once you are confident with staying balanced round a circle, start to introduce more changes of bend through various exercises. I usually start these by working a horse through smaller circles down the long side of the school. Feel how your horse manages with the smaller circle and adjust the size of the circle so it is small enough to flex him a little more, but not so small that he loses balance. If he is having difficulty, make the circle slightly larger circle so he can keep his balance and then work towards smaller circles.
From there move on to riding a serpentine down the length of the school. Each loop is part of a circle, so ride it with correct bend, and make the changes of bend as you cross the school. The changes of bend are most important, prepare them well. If your horse loses balance and you can’t correct it, ride out of the serpentine go back to circles to correct the bend and then try again.
A very useful exercise used by the classical masters is to do circles of varying sizes and with frequent changes of bend in the centre of the school. Come into the middle of the school and make changes of bend away from the walls. Circle in one direction, find the balance and then make a change of circle, keeping the balance throughout. This simple exercise is quite hard to do, focus on your back and seat and feel the movement your horse gives you through his back.
Another good exercise is a spiral. Start your horse on a correct large circle, use your outside aids to decrease the size of the circle around the same centre point, then increase the size of the circle from your inside leg back to the original one.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
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