Flat Circles, what are they and how do I fix them?
I was gong over my judges comments from my last schooling show to help me figure out things to work on for the one coming up.
A common comment was that my circles are flat. I'm not sure what that means... my guess is that my horse isn't bending, is that correct? So if that is it, I'm thinking I should get him more supple? Work on stretching him more? Work on bending around cones, etc? What are ways to get him more bendy?
If it's not that he isn't bending, what is it and how do I fix whatever it is?
I think that means that the circle has parts of it, perhaps near the rail, where the arc flattens out, so that viewed from above, the circle might have spots that are "facetted".
So my guess is to relax more, relax him more and and work on smoothing out our circle so that is is more of a circle. I will be working circles a little more, we are still working out aids since he has gotten better. He responds differently to them now so I sort of have to do trial and error to see how strongly I need to give each aid :)
It usually means that your circles were not round. They were shaped more like an oval. If the circle was a twenty meter circle starting at B or E the "touchpoints" look like this;
If the circle is from A or C the "touchpoints look like this
The problem is that many people either ride too long on the track during the circle making the circle more of a square. On circles at B and E, it is very common to ride from E (or B) very flatly across the ring, not riding a bent arc. This makes the circle more of a flattened oval. Very common mistake.
Remember, the horse only TOUCHES the track for one stride in a circle. Any more than one stride on the track and the circle is NOT round.
I think what might help, and take this with some leniency , as I dont' really show , is to think of having the horse really almost pushing toward the outside ring of your circle. When you have him bent on the circle, there should almost be a feel of tension along the outside aids, outside rein and outside leg. a feel of the horse filling up the outer edge . Sally Swift talks about it as the way water would gush through a turning chute at a water park; it would push against the restraining wall on the outside of the curve.
Once you set the bend to follow the circle, if the horse is correctly connected with it's energy to the outside rein, you almost have to do nothing because if the arc is correct, just follow that arc and it will make a perfect circle.
I always read that it is beneficial to think of a circle as 4 quarters and ride it as if it were so. Instead of thinking of the circle of a whole, ride each quarter as if you were making a very shallow turn through a corner of the arena if that makes sense?
It sounds like you are riding more of a diamond than a circle. Tr practice use flour or cones to somehow mark the 4 corners of the circle, then flour, sand something to mark the arc.
Once you mark your arc look at it again. Is that circle really circular? If so try riding it and keep you horse "on the line".
I also like to smooth out the lines in my arena before I start riding on it - then I ride a circle and look at her hoof marks. Are they circular? If not I have a problem.
Try it on foot, too :-)
Helps with getting the proportions right and with orientation .
I like to ride my 20m circles initially as a diamond shape instead of a circle. Ride point to point, really concentrating on straight lines and accurately hitting the points. Gradually start to add curves to your straight lines, still concentrating on hitting the points accurately. Soon, you'll be riding a perfectly accurate 20m circle.
Don't focus hugely on bend, as often if a rider over thinks their bend on a 20m circle, the horse overbends the neck to the inside and loses its outside shoulder. Keep the neck straight and lined up to the track on the circle, you don't need any more bend than that.
I am not a dressage person, but in reining those circles are certainly an integral part of our pattern. I also have issues getting them round, and have been told by several trainers to ride a stop sign shape. Sort of similar to those here who ride diamonds, but more sides. It has helped immensely.
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