This blog isn’t meant to be an educational blog, I don’t have nearly enough qualifications or experience for that, rather just a place to share my journey with friends and family. However, that being said, I DO read a lot of educational blogs written by real professionals, and often try their exercises at home.
One I had read a week or two ago, I believe it was on http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/ has really been working for Bentley and I to help keep both of our focus even when we are stuck in the ring. Also it helps the time pass faster when you commit to riding for 1.5-2 hours in an arena.
The exercise can be done at any pace depending on your level and modified to suit your own goals, in fact mine is a little modified from the original. I was very pleased to be able to do it at all paces quite easily, but just do what works for your horse.
Start by riding a 20m circle at one end of the arena, it doesn’t matter what direction or which side, but for the purpose of following my direction, we will say its a 20m circle at C going clockwise. Remember the measurement is the diameter, so if your arena is 20m wide, you must hit both tracks on the long side, use this to gauge how far towards X you will need to go (its the same distance as H toM). You may or may not reach X depending on the size of your arena, but at least memorize the size. Set a cone if you are not yet making consistent sized circles.
Once your horse is well in contact and bending its whole body around your leg, do a 10m circle at C. Upon completing the 10m, go back to the track of your 20m circle. Continue along to just before H (3 quarters of the way around your 20m circle) when you hit the track. When you hit the track, do another 10m circle. Continue this pattern until you have done 10m circles at all 4 points of your 20m circle. Do one more full 20m circle and go large. Each time you do a 10m circle, it should go no farther than the centre of your 20m circle, so you should have one centre point you cross each time.
You can do this easily in 3 different parts of the arena: both sides and in the centre. Do it in both directions. Depending on your pace, you have easily eaten up 10-30 minutes of work just like that! If you are finding it easy, try moving up a pace – remember that cantering is difficult but not impossible to do a 10m circle in, but make sure your horse is fully warmed up and both of your skill levels are appropriate for it. Try cantering 15m circles before bringing them down to 10m. Take lots of breaks too as small circles are hard on your horse’s body.
If you are looking to push yourself a little more, try shortening the number of quarter circles between your 10m circles. Eventually you can get down to circle at C, Circle at M, Circle at X, Circle at H all in one loop (progressing only a quarter of the way around your 20m circle each time). Be careful to keep the shape of your 20m circle, and not start to square it off between your 10m circles.
Still looking for more? Take yourself into a large ring or empty field and do the exercise. You won’t have the letters or rails to guide you, so you really have to pay attention to the size and shape of your figures!
And to bring it back to my journey, what have I learned from this exercise:
- increasing and decreasing bend as necessary
- looking ahead to the next move and maintaining correct figure shape (also has helped my jumping)
- exactly HOW big 20m and 10m circles are
- how to keep my horse interested in work – keeping his mind busy so he doesn’t have reason to start trouble
- helping to be able to use inside leg without it being misinterpreted/accompanied by surge forward