"My seat is good while cantering in strait lines. If I bounce, I relax and grab the mane, and get my rhythm back within seconds. Whenever I circle, even in corners, I start bouncing. My strategy is to put more weight in my stirrups, and lean a little to the inside.
Does anyone have any clue why I'm bouncing, and how I can stop it? I really want to show Training level, but will walk-trot unless my circles are better."
Most riders find riding circles harder than riding straight lines. I think the major reason for this is that they try to hard.
Part of the problem may stem from the horse if she is not as strong and flexible in the hindquarters as she should be. A center of gravity too far forward could also add to the problem. These things would take some time to change, so lets consider the rider.
As you realize from what you write about your experience cantering in straight lines, relaxation is very important. The movement of your body in a canter should be a flowing motion. Think of a boat facing rolling swells in an ocean. The boat glides down one swell, flows through the trough, and slides up the next swell until the motion begins again.
You are probably becoming more tense as you try to get your horse to turn. If both you and your horse are relaxed (read “not stressed” as opposed to “lazy”), turning should be as easy as when walking with a friend with your arm around her shoulder. You turn, and she turns with you without either of you giving it much thought. To do this when riding, bring you outside leg back – maybe an inch and keeping the heel down – and rotate your whole upper body in the direction of the turn. Look about a sixth of the circumference ahead with the eyes in your head and imaginary eyes in your chest. Let your arms and hands simply move with your shoulders. Don’t overemphasize any part of your body. Both legs should be draped softly around the horse. The outside leg guides the turn and helps prevent the hind end from swinging outward. The inside leg provides the horse something to bend her body around. Many things will happen if you do this. Don’t dwell on them; simply let them happen.
Try this technique at a walk first when you and your horse are more likely to be relaxed. If you have problems at a walk, let me know and I’ll give you some things to try. If everything goes smoothly, try the same technique in a trot and canter.
Don’t lean in a turn. Just keep your body in line with the horse’s body. The horse knows how to turn itself. If you lean, the horse must also worry about adjusting its motion to compensate for this shift in the overall center of gravity.
While standing in the stirrups may help with bouncing, it raises your center of gravity. It also causes the muscles in your legs to tighten which may bring about a tightening in the muscles of your horse as well. The more you can relax, the more likely your horse will relax.
I was once riding Lusitano stallions in Portugal. Towards the end of the lessons, the riders would individually canter circles around the instructor. On my last ride, I fell into the rhythm of my horse as I had never done before. Our movements were one. Suddenly, the instructor yelled: “Stop!” The horse and I came instantly to a halt. “That was rather abrupt,” I said. The instructor replied, “That was the third time I told you.” I had not heard the other times. I had been in another world. That is the type of riding I strive for.