Tag Archives: riding

Spook McGill? Top Tips for de-sensitising your horse – not numbing it!

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However good a rider you are or how well you know your horse, and it can be the quietest of cobs or the hottest of horses, if you are not concentrating and your horse suddenly flips round; like our horse Dolly does for a pass time! Your heart can’t help but flutter and your breath become short. Oh! And you bottom sore if you landed on the floor.

One of the first things that happens when a horse spooks – is the rider spooks too! So, take a break; don’t think Kit Kat, think Cadbury’s Caramels’ Rabbit and “Take it easy” says Horse Scout Blogger (who particularly likes chocolate).

So, top tips time:

First you: (six on one)

The following tips will help you can calm yourself down, and in turn help to calm your horse:

  1. Breathe! When we are anxious our breathing becomes rapid or stops. Take deep breaths to relax yourself.
  2. Relax your shoulders. Drop your shoulders down and let your arms relax a little too.
  3. Relax your legs. The tenser you are the more your legs will dig in. A sensitive horse may confuse this as an aid.
  4. Talk in a soothing voice.  Talk calmly to him in a low husky “whickering” voice.  You can practice this at home, soothing your horse when grooming and just making it a relaxing time for him/her. This will also relax you. You can try this on other people too…..but don’t blame me for any consequences!
  5. Laugh and Yawn. Even if you are on the verge of tears, yawn and giggle even sing! If you are doing this at home when your horse is relaxed, he will associate the sound with no danger.
  6. Know your horse  If you know what your horses limits are then you can work on them.

And now your horse: (half a dozen of the other)

  1. Soothe Your Horse. Horses don’t like to be afraid, so work on their natural instincts to bring them back to harmony.
  2. Encourage your horse to lower its head by having low and open arms. (Keep your arms soft thought!) A horse is relaxed when its head and ears are down.
  3. Scratch your horses withers and neck as if you are mutually grooming.
  4. Introduce potentially spooky things when you horse is in a safe enclosed space.
  5. At first leave things far away but clearly seen then gradually move them nearer.
  6. As he becomes accustomed move things into the arena and ask him to work around them.

 

A little bit extra –(six of the best)

  1. Don’t always put scary things in the same place – or the horse might come to associate that particular area with spooks and then continually spook just there even when there is nothing to actually spook at!

 

  1. Working from the ground initially and give him something else to think about such as asymmetric poles laid on the ground, or jump stands to walk around and through; anything which will ask him to think about other things.
  2. Again introduce all new things slowly, take your time and praise then stop and return another time.
  3. Many people use the following in an arena to desensitize their horses: umbrellas, wheelbarrows, bikes, cars/lawnmowers, tarpaulins or plastic bags on the fence or even the ground.
  4. Do this safely though and think about yours and the horses safety.
  5. Let your horse look. If it sees no danger it will calm down. Be prepared for it to not like what it sees and spin, but if it does keep it going in the circle to face the problem again until it understands there is no danger.

Do you know someone who deserves a powerful pat on the back? – RDA Nominations are now open

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Nominations for the Riding For The Disabled Association 2015 Gala Awards are now OPEN

RDA Gala Awards 2015Nominate now to be part of the Gala Awards Wednesday 30 September 2015, The Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground, London

Tell us about the outstanding achievements of RDA participants, volunteers, horses and supporters. Send in your nominations using the forms below, to download just click on the link. There are two versions of each form, a Word document which can be filled in electronically and a PDF version for printing and submitting hand written nominations.

The six award categories are:

Volunteer of the Year – sponsored by Perkins Slade

Brilliant Idea – sponsored by Automotive Insulation

Business Partnership – sponsored by BETA

Most Improved Participant – sponsored by Childs Farm

Vet of the Year – sponsored by Merial Animal Health

Horse or Pony of the Year – sponsored by Snuggy Hoods

Guidance for Writing Citations

The closing date for nominations is 30 July 2015.

Awards will be presented by Clare Balding at the 2015 Gala Awards dinner at Lords Cricket Ground on Wednesday 30 September 2015.

GOOD LUCK!

How can I balance a big horse? Core strength is the key to harmony.

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Horse Scout blogger was pondering this question.  I am tall and quite strong , I run and do a fair amount of core training.  I also have very long legs! I was thinking how this affected what sort of horse I would search for if I was looking for horses for sale. More importantly what happens when a smaller person falls in love with a horse which, on the face of it, looks as if he is going to be “just too big”

Having a horse which is large doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be ridden by a large or strong person. They do, however, take much longer to become strong in themselves, so training will take proportionately longer. As your horse becomes stronger he will be able to carry himself better and become easier to ride. A fit, fully trained large horse should not in practice be any more effort to ride than a smaller one.

BUT: it would pay a small rider in dividends to be as physically stable and strong as they can be, not to force the horse in any way but to hold the movements, contain the power of the horse through a matched core strength. If you are strong you will ride the very best your ability allows….but better!

Being able to hold yourself athletically and cardially fit will allow you to sit big movements without tension. With fitness comes suppleness and being supple will allow you to absorb the movement through your own agility.

If you are looking to the long term future of this large horse you cannot rush his developmental or re-training and you definitely cannot force him into an outline. You need to focus entirely on steady progress towards self carriage.

On a large horse, as with any other, it is the quality of the movement that you are looking for. Really concentrate on setting up a movement, that means every corner, every transition with correctly executed half halts, and correct aids. Use every opportunity to encourage the horse to carry himself correctly and you will be on the road to building in the vital strength he needs to carry himself. Initially he will tire pretty quickly (and so may you) make sure you build in a good warm up and warm down routine and let him stretch and ride him long and low between exercises.

Keep all movements big to start with, start with 20 meter circles and only gradually reduce the size. Give him every chance to keep himself in balance. Do half circles loops back to the long side, two loop 20 then 15 meter circles will help shorten him and so will inward spirals on a circle using shallow lateral movements and changes of directions. Use corners as 15 meter circle quarters and work down to 10 meter circle quarters. On the long sides use gentle lateral movements and use these to move into a circle. Look for quality not quantity.

Simple pole work exercises will help strengthen and elevate paces and add variety. Keeping a horse interested (not confused) is key to progress. Follow routines i.e. warm up, train, warm down, but add variety within that program.

If you find the quality of the movements is degrading as your session goes on, stop, let him relax, rest and stretch. Start again and ask for something which he can perform well even when he is tired then call it a day and go for a stroll if he has not been out for long.

Grooming will help sooth tired muscles and help build your relationship with him. Work to a scheduled schooling program and build in time to allow him to let his hair down.

I think that if you are small it does not preclude you from buying a larger horse, but it does mean you need to take account of your own fitness and that of the horse. Take your time. Seek professional help to make sure progress is on target and that you are being consistent. Horse Scout has a wonderful list of trainers in every sector: Showing, Endurance, Eventing, Showjumping and Dressage so take a look and find someone fantastic to help you with your lovely big horse. Click here to find your perfect trainer

 

 

 

 

Spook McGill? 19 Top Tips for de-sensitising your horse – not numbing it!

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One of the first things that happens when a horse spooks – is the rider spooks too!

So, take a break; don’t think Kit Kat think Cadbury’s Caramels’ Rabbit and “Take it easy”

  1. First you: The following tips show how you can calm yourself down,  and in turn help to calm your horse:
  2. Breathe! When we are anxious our breathing becomes rapid or stops. Take deep breaths to relax yourself.
  3. Relax your shoulders. Drop your shoulders down and let your arms relax a little too.
  4. Relax your legs. The tenser you are the more your legs will dig in. A sensitive horse may confuse this as an aid.
  5. Talk in a soothing voice. “Shhh” your horse and talk calmly to it in a low husky “whickering” voice.  You can practice this at home, soothing your horse when grooming and just making it a relaxing time for him/her. This will also relax  you.
  6. Laugh and Yawn. Even if you are on the verge of tears, yawn and giggle even sing! If you are doing this at home when your horse is relaxed, he will associate the sound with no danger.
  7. Know your horse  If you know what your horses limits are then you can work on them.
  8. Soothe Your Horse. Horses don’t like to be afraid, so work on their natural instincts to bring them back to harmony.
  9. Encourage your horse to lower its head by having low and open arms. A horse is relaxed when its head and ears are down.
  10. Scratch your horses withers and neck as if you are mutually grooming.
  11. If you have a new horse always introduce them to a few “scary” things in the arena or yard before hitting the road.
  12. Introduce potentially spooky things when you horse is in a safe enclosed space.
  13. At first leave things far away but clearly seen then gradually move them nearer.
  14. Don’t always put them into the same place – or the horse might come to associate that particular area with spooks and then continually spook just there even when there is nothing to actually spook at!
  15. As he becomes accustomed move things into the arena and ask him to work around them.
  16. Working from the ground initially and give him something else to think about such as asymmetric poles laid on the ground, or jump stands to walk around and through; anything which will ask him to think about other things.
  17. Again introduce all new things slowly, take your time and praise then stop and return another time.
  18. Many people use the following in an arena to desensitize their horses: umbrellas, wheelbarrows, bikes, cars/lawnmowers, tarpaulins or plastic bags on the fence or even the ground.
  19. Do this safely though and think about yours and the horses safety.

Justine Armstrong-Small – Showing – Rider/Groom Wanted – Epping forest

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Just Riding is Justine Armstrong-Small’s riding school and show production yard.

Well known in the showing world as regular competitors on the County circuit, team Armstrong-Small have enjoyed many successes at HOYS & RIHS.

From their Essex base they provide a wide range of services from livery and individual lessons to production, breeding, riding school activities and horse & pony sales.

Just Riding is set in an idyllic spot with a well equipped equestrian facility located in Epping Forest.

They are currently looking for a rider/groom

We are looking for an experienced rider used to doing breakers and completion young horses to join our team. Lots of riding for the right person

Click here to find out more

10 Top Tips – Keeping Calm and Carrying on – if you are cool your horse can be calm

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Its not always easy to stay entirely calm when your horse is spooking or being sharp, especially if the behaviour is putting you or others in danger. If you are terrified your horse will think “oh, there is something to be afraid of” but will not make the connection that what you are afraid of is your horse! Don’t Be Afraid It is sometimes easier said than done, but anyone riding a horse knows that it can pick up on your emotions and it will affect their sate of mind.

So how would you calm a spooking/fresh horse?”

  1. Top tip is to “keep their attention on you” hacking out or warming up use diversion tactics to get them to listen to you.  Keep calm breath slowly and into the bottom of your lungs so that the ribcage fills out and back at the bottom.   Focus your attention in front of the horse, keep your head in balance and your shoulders, back and seat relaxed (…not slumped – relaxed) ask your horse to back up, move his shoulders over change direction etc. All can be done when hacking out, opening gates, going over bridges (particularly motorway ones – Scary or what?)
  2. Use  lateral flexion – Bend the ribs by only using leg aids if the horse does not respond this tells you your horse is bracing or his mind is somewhere else.
  3. Practice at home, riding at different speeds within a gait, so three speeds of walk, trot and canter.
  4. Lunge before you ride to take the edge off your horse.
  5. If he wants to increase speed going home, it shows and tells us that he’s un-confident … rushing home!
  6. Once he gets home work him, rest & work again … stay chilled you don’t want him working that hard that he sweats like crazy .. then tie up for a while.
  7. Out hacking get him to walk away from home at different speeds (or trot and canter) on way home, same deal … slow walk, then medium … etc.
  8. Avoid standing still as it is probably going to wind him up. Let his feet move but direct his energy in a way that keeps his attention on you
  9. Look at your work routine are you encourageing the horse to rush home for food? Breaking this cycle by a short hack then a work out  or a work out then a hack/lunge (whichever your horse likes least) will help change their mind setting
  10. It is important to praise your horse too, if they behave let them know you’re proud with a soothing voice and a scratch.

How can I stop my horse pulling? …. 3 steps to go!

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Does your horse get offended when you pull on the reins to stop? Does he pin his ears, shake his head, and keep going?

Maybe he’s trying to tell you something: stop pulling on the reins! 🙂

There is a way to get your horse to stop without pulling on the reins.

but first, you both have to be “in sync” together, working in tandem instead of against each other.

If you haven’t done this before, it may take a few tries to convince your horse that you want to work with him. Horses that are regularly pulled on seem to accept that the pressure has to be there before they should respond. They might learn to lean on the bit, pulling against you while you pull backward, hoping for the legs to stop.

Some horses are generous and eventually slow their feet, stop/starting until finally, all four legs come to a halt. Other horses might not be quite as forgiving and just keep going until you have to put more and more pressure on the mouth. Eventually, one of you wins but it’s never pretty!

We all dream of finding the halt that looks like we are in complete harmony with our horse. You know – the one that feels like the horse’s legs are your legs, and your mind is so coordinated with the horse that it looks like you are reading each other’s thoughts.

It does happen. The secret: ride from your seat.

Setup for a Correct Halt

1. Contact

Prepare several strides ahead of the intended location. Your reins should be a good length – not too long and not too short. There should be a steady enough contact on the bit to be able to communicate very subtle changes of pressure.

2. Begin a series of half-halts.

The half-halts start at the seat. In rhythm with the horse’s movement, resist with your lower back. Be sure to resist in rhythm. In other words, your lower back and seat will feel something like this: resist… flow… resist… flow… resist… flow.

2a. Use your legs.

During each flow moment, squeeze lightly with your calves. This helps the horse engage his hind end deeper underneath the body in preparation with the halt.

2b. Use the hands.

During each resist moment, squeeze the reins with your hands. You might squeeze both reins or just one rein (the outside rein being the usual rein) but in any case, do your best to use the hands after the leg aids. The rein pressure should occur in tandem with the resisting seat aid.

3.When you are ready for the halt, simply stop your seat.

Maintain contact with your legs and reins, but stop the activity. Don’t keep pulling on the reins.

If the horse is truly with you, his legs will stop lightly and in balance.

Horses that have been trained to respond to the half-halt will sigh in relief when you lighten up on your aids and use your seat in the halt. You might be surprised at how easily the legs will stop if you can improve your timing and releases.

Horses that have always been pulled on might not respond at all. They might be expecting to be hauled backward, thrown to the forehand, and dragged to a stop. If this is the case, be patient. If you haven’t done this before, it may take a few tries to convince your horse that you want to work with him.

You might have to bridge the learning gap by applying the half-halts several times, stopping your seat and then pulling to stop. In the end though, the pull should disappear completely from your vocabulary (exception: in an emergency stop).

Regardless of how you get there, the goal is to stop all four legs in a light, balanced manner that allows the horse to use his hind end when he takes that last step. Your horse might walk a few strides and then halt.

If you feel your horse’s front end lighten and into the halt, you know you are on the right track. If you discover the four legs stopped square and parallel to each other, pet and gush over him, and call it a day!

Sound talking : horse listening.

Perhaps you would benefit from some lessons, someone on the ground to help you keep on track.  Horse Scout has a great list of professional trainers, check them out here

Horse Scouts 6 Top Tips – Warming up from the ground

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What is a warm-up? The term ‘warm-up’ accurately describes what happens when we transition the body from a resting state to a state suitable for activity: the muscles are literally ‘warmed up’, receive increased blood and oxygen supply, gain flexibility and therefore reduce stress on tendons and ligaments.

 

A warm-up will also ensure increased oxygen supply to the blood and the elevation of the heart rate from a resting rate to an activity rate. If you warm up your horse gradually—instead of ‘jump-starting’ his heart-rate—you will also have a calmer, more relaxed, and more willing horse.

 

Sufficient warm up before exercise, training, and competition is essential, in order to avoid injury to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Our bodies-rider’s and horse’s-are made up of mostly fluids! Warming up body fuids inside muscles reduces the internal friction of a muscle and therefore prevents injury. Mobility and elasticity of muscles is increased, which minimises the strain on ligaments and tendons.

Avoid muscle spasms, discomfort, stiff gaits and in extreme cases torn muscles or tendons or anxiety and unwillingness to work by warming your horse up properly at the beginning of every ride.

Before you even get your horse out of the stable you can start a warm up routine as part of his preparation to be ridden.

Here are 6 top tips to get that blood flowing; the bonus is that it will help get you warmed up too!

  1. A warm up should always start gently.  Getting the blood to start flowing around the body and warming up the muscles. You can start by grooming your horse, and this has an added benefit of giving you the chance to check for injuries and to ensure that all sweat and mud is removed so that it cannot irritate your horse as he starts work.
  1. Having brushed you horse all over start to concentrate on the back area using a technique similar to a Swedish massage, long light stokes using the warmth of your palm and flicking up and away at the end of the stroke.  Its called “Effleurage” you can see graphics on the internet if you search the word. Basically think of it as ironing out the (metaphorical) wrinkles by moulding your palm around the muscles, as you stoke away you will feel a warmth in your hand and he will be feeling the same warmth in his muscles.
  1. Before mounting him walk him around in circles and ask him to walk forward and backwards too.  This will really help if you have a horse with a cold back.
  2. As these movements will help to warm his back muscles up and increase the
  3. blood flow around his whole body.
  1. Finally, before bitting him up, use carrot stretches to help stretch his topline muscles and engage his core muscles. Make sure he has had time to finish his mouthful before setting off. More on carrot stretches later. As these are also excellent at the end of a ride and your horse will love you for feeding him carrots.

When viewing a horse for sale this crucial step is often left out or rushed because of the time element perhaps the seller is a busy yard owner and has to move on to the next sale or job or where buying privately the seller feels rushed because they don’t want to hold you up.  However this could be an important factor in your final decision and it really is best to allow the horse to fully warm up before you get your first impression of him. Perhaps if you go for a second viewing you could ask to take the horse through a full warm up and that way you could also asses his temperament, stable manners, etc from a relaxed and quiet moment or two together, I am sure that if the seller knows you are a serious purchaser they will allow you to do this.

If you are having a training session or clinic with a professional rider then make sure you build in time to do this initial warm up when you arrive, so there is plenty of time to get ready for the start of your lesson.

Mandy Frost holds Show Jumping Clinics at The Mullacott Centre – Mandy Frost is a BS Accredited UKCC Level 3 Coach and Coach of the Year 2009 and also lead coach for Devon Junior Academy as well as being part of the Excel Coaching Programme. As well as competing Nationally. Cost – group of 3 – £20 per person: two sharing – £30 per person: individual -£60

Lucinda Fredericks  Clinics can be organised outside of eventing season. The cost is £1,000 + VAT plus travel expenses. Clinics can be a mix of flatwork, jumping skills or cross country skills or can concentrate on one discipline and can be a mix of group work and private lessons. If you book a 3 day clinic one night can include a video/Talk/Q&A Session and dinner with Lucinda on one of the nights. Lucinda can offer private lessons to individuals or groups from complete beginners right up to advanced competition riders. Lessons can be undertaken at either at Rosegarth or at external locations for more people by booking a clinic day – Lucinda often travels to local XC courses and equestrian centres to offer tuition to small groups. For lessons on site at Rosegarth please note you will need to bring your own horse with you.  Lucinda has two sessions in in Dorset 18 & 28th February 2015 – Her charges are: Individual lessons – £80 for a 45 minute session: Group lesson with 4 people – £35 each for 1 hour: Group lesson for 6 people – £25 each for 1.5 hours charges subject to VAT

 

 

 

Looking at loosening up muscles, joints and your horses mind.

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Looking at loosening up muscles, joints and your horses mind.

When you have mounted your horse allow him to walk off on a soft low rein with a loose contact and encourage him to stretch forward and long in his neck. This stretches the ‘nuchal ligament’ which runs from his pole to his withers and in turn pulls on the ligaments which run along the top of the vertebrae and gives him time to get used to your weight.  When you feel he has developed a loose and flexible walk and is listening to you then move into trot keeping the contact soft and low and start in rising trot on large figures of eight in a slow steady trot. This will help him relax and adjust his stance to easily take your weight. Also by riding your horse in this way also it allows for more swing through his back, which is a positive movement to promote.

It’s important to start and finish your ridden session with your horse in a long and low contact to let him use his nuchal and supraspinous ligaments to support his back, particularly as he’s warming up or when he’s tired.

Once your horse is loosened up and moving freely in the large movements you can start to increase his temperature and circulation by asking him to move into canter this will increase his cardio and breathing rates and oxygenate the muscles ready to start working. It also exercises the core muscles which have to extend and contract more in the canter than they do in the trot.

Once you feel he is breathing well and has warmed up then allow him to have a breather and walk for a while. During this walking period you can concentrate on flexibility. Just like people horses will loose flexibility over time unless they are given routine exercises which help them use their joints to the full.

Lateral work for a horse encourages a full range of movement in upper joints, rather like us lifting our arms above our heads to stretch. Depending on what level your horse is training at you can use small circles of lateral work such as leg-yield, shoulder-in and travers. Start any lateral exercises in walk at first as it requires the greatest amount of joint movement because there’s no moment of suspension.

Walking is the horses most flexible pace for his spine.  In walk he is able to more easily rotate and flex and this helps bring his hind legs in to step up and under him. All of these exercises will help to promote and maintain your horse’s skeletal health. Flexing him to the left and right will help the muscles on either side of his spine and poll to flex, and any lateral and circle work will strengthen and stretch these muscle chains further.

Work with an experienced trainer to get the best from your horse.  Horse Scout has a list of professional trainers and coaches one of whom is bound to be in your area

 

 

Don’t chase your tail – try a circle

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A Circle is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever master?  Well possibly! LOL

 

When you are trying out a horse which you are interested in purchasing be sure to test out circles, concentrate on the feel of one circle and then change direction. Does the horse feel different on one rein to the other.  If so when you return to straight line riding change your diagonal from one side to the other and back again.  Does the horse change you onto his more comfortable diagonal? How different is the horse on either side and could this be lack of training or an indication of something else?  Professional trainers will ensure that the horse works towards being supple and in balance on both reins and can help you correct asymmetric muscle strengths. So always take advice from someone who understands the causes of asymmetrical going in a horse before committing to buying as there could be underlying confirmation of injuries causing the noticeable difference in going.

 

What exactly is a circle?

An accurate description of a circle? A circle is a continuous curve where the horse maintains inside bend and energy throughout, with an even arc through the four quarters of the movement and a seamless exit into the next movement

What To Look For

When a horse is on a circle it should be bending into the direction of the circle. Circles help to get the inside hind leg to push through and activate the horse from their hindquarters whilst at the same time encouraging balance, suppleness and rhythm throughout their entire body. Whilst on a circle the horse should remain tracking up, with their head level and not tilting. The horse should have a slight bend to the inside, just enough so that the rider can see the corner of the inner eyelash, as a guide if you can see the whole eye and side of the horses face you have too much bend.

Broadly speaking – Asking For A Circle

To ask a horse to circle will require several aids in varying degrees.

The inside rein asks for a slight amount of bend, to enable the horse to be looking into the direction it is moving in.

Concurrently the outside rein controls how much inside bend you have and it also controls the speed. The outside hand

The riders inside leg should remain on the girth, from here it encourages the horse forwards as well as asking the horse to bend around it.

The riders outside leg moves back one to two inches to be behind the girth, it is the outside leg which helps to prevent the horse from falling out too wide.

The rider should turn through their upper body so that their shoulders follow the horses shoulders and their hips follow their horses hips. This allows the rider to be following through with the horse on the circle.

There are very subtle ancillary movements through the body which all happen together and each one will affect how well the others synchronise.  But if you can tune in to what you are doing, where your weight is, the space you have created up through your body on the inside of the movement which will allow the horse to come up and under you as be bends into the circle movement and the stability of the outside of your body to hold the movement and can feel each part is connected to the other you will be halfway there!

Accurate Riding Of A Circle

To ride an accurate circle takes time and practice. Good judgment of the height and width of the circle you have ridden are essential for assessing accuracy. Start off by placing cones at key points around your circle, imagine your circle as a clock face and place your cones at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock respectively, this will mark out the four main quarter points of your circle, which allows you to curve around them. It is useful to start your circle off at a school marker, this will not only help to prevent drifting off course, but will also give you an exact place to start and finish. Practice different sized circles using the measurements of the school to create exactly accurate circles.

When To Use Circles

Once different sizes of circle have been mastered then you can ride them to balance a horse, prepare a horse for a transition or for some lateral work, help to slow down a horse who is rushing and also ride half circles to change the rein. Half circle exercises include a half 10 or 15 meter circle that returns to the track to change the rein. Two half 10, 15, and 20 meter circle that form a S shape. You can also add circles into the loops of a serpentine, to either end of a five meter loop, and to figure of eights.

If you are having problems with circles at home ask your trainer to check your position and way of riding, quite often it is your own mis-balance that causes the horse to fall in (or out) on a circle.  Your trainer can explain how you can ride circles better to help keep your horse in balance.