Moving around the arena with the 20 Meter Circle
Adding on to the circle exercise look at the illustration on the spatial relationship of the circle in different areas of the arena. Try riding the 20 meter circle in all the areas illustrated. Start at the walk then try the trot and canter if you are comfortable at each of these gaits.
To improve your circles you can add cones or blocks in the corners to help direct you along the path to the circle. From the corner or side of the arena take three average sized steps and drop your cone (illustrated here in blue) You do not need to place all the cones at the same time. The illustration is just a visual guide to where the cones are places. Once you have the cones places remember you ride on the inside of the cones to ride a circle and the outside of the cones to ride the corner.
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 from the inside leg to the outside rein.
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 should be bent throughout there entire body following the curve of the circle. So the inside of your horse’s body on the track is shorter then 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. 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 the riders 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.
Tracking right the right rein or inside rein asks for the bend. The left rein or outside rein maintains contact and keeps the horse 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 horses hind end and keep it on the curved track.
Tracking Left the left rein or inside rein asks for the bend. The right rein or outside rein maintains contact and keeps the horse straight on the circle. The riders left 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 right leg or outside leg is held slightly behind the girth to control your horses hind end and keep it on the curved track.