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What does it mean when a horse prefers smaller circles?

My mare, left to her own devices, will reduce the circle to a really small one. In trot she will go down to about 3m and in canter she goes down to about 4 to 5m without dropping the gait. She is a smallish horse so these aren’t extremely small for her.

I can keep her easily on a large circle but I just wandered what this means.
 

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Of course I'm not an expert, but I would guess she is dropping her shoulder, becoming imbalanced, and then she has to make smaller circles to compensate for it.

Or you could be turning her head in too much and so she sort of falls in?

Or you are leaning in and this makes them turn in more?

Both my Teddy and Pony do this, and I'm pretty sure that at least in *my* case it's rider error, not their actual preference. You are probably a better rider than I am so maybe that's not the case for you.

That's my guess. I could be wrong.

This might be one of those cases where posting a video would be a good idea.
 

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a lot of times, if the horse wants to quit working, they spiral in until the rider allows them to break gait.



Voila! they got out of work!
 

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Elle, 1997 Oldenburg mare
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I asked Warwick Schiller about this, as one of the horses I was riding last year would just run around in a smaller and smaller circle, if left to his own devices, on a totally slack rein, no matter how neutral I made my seat. This was a particularly resistant horse who was WAAAY more whoa than go.

Warwick put forward that he might have been taught to circle to a stop by previous trainers. And that he might be trying to circle himself to a stop to get out of going forward. Knowing this horse's background, I think he was probably bang on. He said to just keep pushing him on until he decided to make the circle bigger on his own, and to let him slow down and take a break the moment he did go to move out more. Did seem to help. Your mileage may vary!
 
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