Now that you are confident in the 20-meter circles, figure eights and serpentines, it is time to add some more advanced figures. Let us begin with 15- and 10-meter circles.
As with the 20-meter circle, your horse will be challenged to stretch and bend his body. The decreased size of these circles makes the challenge even greater as the horse moves on the bending line by stepping up and under with his inside hind.
As he travels on a smaller and smaller circle, the amount of weight on his inside hind increases. When moving properly, the horse can travel more upright on the circle, allowing his rib cage to move outward—the correct basis for developing bend in his body.
Now that you have a better understanding of what will get more difficult, let us review the geometry of the 15- and 10-meter circles by working through an exercise that involves spiraling in. We will begin in walk so you have plenty of time to work through each step.
1. On the left rein, ride down the track toward B.
2. At B, ride a 20-meter circle (covered in the January issue).
3. Make sure to hit your four key points to maintain geometry: B, 2 meters in from I, E, 2 meters in from L and B.
4. At B, ride a 15-meter circle.
5. Using B as your take-off point, bring your circle in 5 meters from your original circle.
6. At the half-way point, aim to hit the far quarterline instead of E.
7. Return to B to finish your 15-meter circle.
8. At B, ride a 10-meter circle (also known as a volte).
9. Using B as your take-off point, again bring your circle in 5 meters from your previous circle.
10. At the halfway point, aim to hit the centerline instead of the quarterline or E.
11. Return to B to finish your 10-meter circle.
12. Proceed straight ahead and ride down the track.
Pay careful attention to your line of travel and make sure that you are as close to 20, 15 and 10 meters as possible when riding your circles. If you are struggling with the geometry, place cones between the centerline and quarterlines level with E and B to keep you on track. You can also measure out the exact 15- and 10-meter circles and mark them with cones to get an even better feel for the geometry and to be even more precise. Once you have successfully ridden this exercise in walk, try it in trot. Notice how your horse becomes more flexible and responsive to your aids. As you can see, with increased difficulty comes increased reward. Play with variations of this exercise. For example, canter the 20-meter circle, trot the 15-meter circle and walk the 10-meter circle. The idea is that the more tools you have in your toolbox, the more options you have to work with. Until we cover even more next month, happy riding!