Use the 20-meter circle to improve lateral flexion on your horse and learn how to change your bend when you change direction. When you ride on a 20-meter circle, you teach your horse to soften to the inside aids, and you learn how to ride your horse across their body from the inside leg (first) to the outside rein (second).
Things to remember when riding a circle is that a circle is circular, so you are the same distance from the center at every step on the circle. Look at the spatial relationship of the circles in the Small and Standard Dressage Arena while riding the circle your horse’s body arcs following the curve of the circle. So the inside of your horse’s body on the track is shorter than outside of your horse’s body on the track of the circle.
Circles will reveal stiffness in both the horse and the rider, and if you are uneven with your reins, the track of the circle is difficult to follow. Take note if it is easier to track one direction, if so then your horse may have a problem. Perhaps your horse is less flexible in one direction which is common, and the remedy is to spend more time in the awkward direction. When riding the circle your horse’s inside hind foot should track up into your horse’s inside front foot, and your horse’s outside hind foot should track up into your horse’s outside front foot. And you (the rider) shoulders and hips should match the horses bend.
Start riding the first 20-meter circle at the walk and plan your course. Remember that the bend is constant all the way around the circle. Think of a circle as having 4 points and ride from point to point on a curved line.
When you begin in this example tracking to the right: use the right rein or inside rein lightly to ask for for the bend and provide direction. The left rein or outside rein maintains contact and keep your horses straight on the circle. The riders right leg or inside leg stays on the girth encouraging the horse to move forward and to bend through its body to the inside of the circle. The left leg or outside leg is held slightly behind the girth to control your horse’s hind end and keep it on the curved track and moving forward. Remember you are seeking lightness so if you have an unresponsive horse make a correction then return to the light aid.