WESTERN DRESSAGE - PERFECTING THE 20 METER CIRCLE
By Leigh Webber
The judge and instructor want to see the horse relaxed, balanced, with a steady rhythm and properly bent on the movement. Compare this with the unbalanced horse learning how to lunge. They typically drop their inside front shoulder toward the middle of the circle, look to the outside, hind legs way out behind them and scramble to make it around again. Because they are out of balance, they are nervous and therefore, go faster, which is the opposite of what they need to do. Actually, almost everything they are doing on the beginning lunge circle is usually the opposite of what we want! Then what is the purpose of making them do something unnatural? Well, almost everything we ask them to do is not natural, so let’s not go down that path…Horses don’t naturally go around in circles. We train circles because it is the beginning of relaxation, balance on a bent line and rhythm. Which, in turn is the beginning of a swinging back and engagement of the hind quarters, which, will build a strong back and a lasting career as a riding horse!
VISUALIZE a large bowl with some water in it. Visualize holding the bowl in both hands and swirling the water around. This is one of the best metaphors for the horse’s energy on a bending line. We swirl, activate, the horse’s energy, the water, with our inside leg at the girth. We “catch” that energy with our outside aids (seat, leg, hand), the bowl. This is an example of “riding the horse from the inside leg into the outside rein”. Try swirling the water the other direction! Keep this visual in mind through the following exercises.
Instead of thinking, picturing in your mind’s eye, a circle, try picturing a diamond or octagon. In other words, put a few straight strides on your circle. Walk it first on your own feet, then walk while mounted. Each set of straight strides will rebalance you and your horse at least four times on each circle. And, it will help you recognize where your horse is losing his balance. Example, does he drop his inside shoulder and look out, speeding up? Then you will need a more effective inside leg, asking his inside rear leg to step up, toward his center of balance, so all the momentum doesn’t end up on the inside shoulder, rather, it goes toward the outside-the water swirling against the edge of the bowl. If he drops his ribcage to the center of the circle, the fix is the same, reorganize his energy with your inside leg. 51% of your weight should be on the inside sit bone and down the inside thigh to knee, 49% on the outside! Then do it at a trot, don’t canter until trot feels great! If he drops his outside shoulder, chances are you are bending his neck, not his body.
Walk a square. Walk several straight strides, before the rail, stop. Do a ¼ turn on the forehand and walk until your horse is straight and forward in a steady rhythm, stop, ¼ turn on the forehand. Do this all the way around the square several times. Change directions. When this is going well and the horse understands and complies with relaxation, trot the straight lines, walk, and if the transition is clear, do a “Walking turn on the forehand”. So, the front legs are walking a very small ¼ circle and the hind legs are walking in a larger ¼ circle. If the trot to walk transition isn’t clear, halt and do the turn on the forehand. When the trot/walk, work is good, ride the square at trot.
At trot, ride a 20 meter circle, decrease the size to a 15 meter circle and stay on it for 2 to 3 revolutions. Then increase back out to the 20 meter. When this is relaxed, balanced and rhythmic in both directions, try to decrease the size to one 15 meter and back out for one 20 meter, then back in for another 15 meter.
Hopefully, the 2017 test will be out in January so we can look at riding a new test in February.
HAPPY, BLESSED NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!
www.WebbersJoyRanch.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
I am offering another Western Dressage clinic at Joy Ranch LLC, Desert Hills, AZ on Jan 28. Advanced registration by Jan 23rd is required.
WDAAZ thanks its SPONSOSRS!!!
Future Hope Equestrian LLC, Chaparral Veterinary Medical Center Eric & Lynn Kazan, Leigh Webber
Scattered Rock, Prescott Animal Hospital & Equine Center, Ava Eskin, ProFab Iron Works EIEIO Professional Services, Kirsten Kuzmanic, Connie Lara, Ann Harrington
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