Improving circles for the geometrically challenged

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Improving circles for the geometrically challenged

This is a discussion on Improving circles for the geometrically challenged within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category

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    08-22-2011, 01:44 PM
Improving circles for the geometrically challenged

Although my day-to-day work is heavy in statistics and mathematical equations, my riding is showing me that geometry is not a strength

I simply can not see, and therefore can not ride, a perfectly shaped circle (I'm trying for 20 meter, but this problem is regardless of size). They are most frequently shaped like a "D" although I have been known to throw in several pear shapes in a row. I know the pattern I'm riding is wrong, but it's because I can't visualize where I should be in the arena. Because of this basic problem, it's hard for me to use the circle properly to work on my own body, let alone give the horse the cues she needs to use her body correctly.

Recently, my instructor mentioned in passing that I should put out cones to help with my geometry challenges. This made a lot of sense to me as I did a lot of figure skating as a kid, and spent tons of time using the scribe to sketch out perfect figure 8 circles that I spent hours practicing on. So, I tried the cones during my Saturday morning ride. I started by placing a cone on 4 "points" on the circle: C, X, R, and S. I tried to round out the sides of the circle with 4 additional cones. I mounted my horse near A and rode to the other end of the arena- only to find that my "rounding out" cones were actually bulging out the sides of the circle giving it spiky edges! OK, so I can't even make an intentional circle on the ground, which doesn't bode well for doing this on the horse! I dismounted, fixed the cones, and had a respectable circle laid out with the cones (my instructor confirmed that what looked like a circle to me was in fact a circle).

After warming up, we began riding the posting trot on the circle, and I have to say, it felt amazing, the best I have ever felt on a circle because I was no longer thinking about the shape, I was thinking about riding that shape. My horse was really moving well, and we had no problem with increasing and decreasing the size of the circle (moving inside and outside of the cones) with slight leg pressure.

So, this is a long way of asking, what can I do to work on my own inability to visualize the circle without the cones? How long would you say I can expect to use the cones as a "crutch" before I really internalize what it feels like? (I'm not showing at all, so I don't have a fixed date to work toward. It's just that after seeing how good riding the circle could feel, I want to be able to continue to take advantage of it.)
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    08-22-2011, 01:49 PM
If you have a grass arena/field etc you could spraypaint a 20meter circle on the ground. If you ride a good circle enough, you will then be able to 'feel' a good circle.
But if you want, just continue to use the cones for a couple of weeks, and eventually you will feel the circle.
    08-22-2011, 09:59 PM
I would think eventually you will be able to feel how much bend you have and will be able to maintain the proper size circle that way. Ultimately the size of the circle is just the result of the bend you've asked for. Consistent bend = consistent circle.
    08-22-2011, 10:25 PM
One of my trainers told me to ride a stop sign shape. This keeps the dircle from getting smaller too! Just ride the same strides each side! Hels me a lot. I tend to ride egg shapes.
    08-22-2011, 10:56 PM
One thing that helped me was to start riding a straight line up the long side of the arena, and then close my eyes and try to feel the circle. Getting the correct bend requires a certain feel, and I find it much easier to do with my eyes closed, relying on that feel.
    08-23-2011, 01:41 PM
Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. I think there is some good advice in here that I can incorporate into our practice.

Also, newbhj...I'm so glad you wrote this. I had been thinking this would be the best solution (if only I had a nice level field to ride in, which I don't) but thought it would certainly get me a lot of laughs. I really do think it would be the best solution, but obviously it wouldn't hold up with dirt arena footing.
Originally Posted by newbhj    
If you have a grass arena/field etc you could spraypaint a 20meter circle on the ground.
So, for now I'll be sticking with my cones and seeing if I really can internalize the "feel" of a good circle as many of you have suggested.
    08-23-2011, 05:21 PM
I was taught to feel circles by using a round fence post set in concrete in a bucket. It was shorten to be lower than the average wither of a horse. Put a lag bolt in the center and drop a looped end of a rope over it. You can have the rope length for the size of your circle. Now take the end of the rope in your and and ride the circle by keeping the hands where they belong. If you drift off the circle your hands will move......

Just an idea
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    08-23-2011, 05:51 PM
My trainer puts ground poles where she wants me to circle around or jump posts. Then we either go over, around or inbetween the poles or posts. It is pretty helpful. Or if you have a ring, pretend you cut the ring in half and only use one half of the ring and turn it into a circle instead of an oval.
    08-23-2011, 06:39 PM
The biggest problem with people making circles for dressage is they have the horse over flexed and then they follow the incorrect bend so the circle is doomed right from the start.
    08-24-2011, 11:57 PM
I tend to cut off the last half or third of the circle, and probably make a D shape too.
My instructor told me to think of it as smaller lines that shift to the right or left, not a circle.
I also tend to make it way smaller then it should be, so then I think BIG BIG BIG when doing the circle.
Also, I find it easier to choose spots in my circle and make sure to get to them.

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