Just as the 15-meter figure eight covered in last month’s issue (October 2014) built on the concepts from the previous month’s 15-meter circles, this month’s exercise—the Bow Tie—will literally and figuratively force you to stretch things beyond the figure eight. It’s a great exercise to loosen the stiff horse and refocus the mentally tense horse.
Here are the steps for the Bow Tie:
1. Begin in walk to allow youself the time to become familiar with the geometry.
2. Tracking right, halfway between S and H ride a half 15-meter circle.
3. Make it a point to hit the far quarterline as you finish your half-circle to ensure that you’re geometry is correct.
4. Once you have completed the half-circle, turn and ride a straight line to E.
5. At E, turn and ride down the track to V on the left rein.
6. Between V and K ride a half 15-meter circle.
7. At the far quarterline, turn and ride a straight line to E.
8. On the right rein, continue down the track to S.
9. Repeat your half 15-meter circle between S and H.
Notice that your half 15-meter circles are between S and H and V and K. It may be tempting to ride all the way to H and K, but remember that you only have 6 meters between those letters and the short side. Recalling your geometry from the 15-meter circle (covered in the September 2014 issue), you need a full 7½ meters to form the radius of a 15-meter circle.
On the other hand, if you are tempted to ride the half-circles at S and V, you will end up very cramped as you try to turn and ride a diagonal line from the quarterline, just past I and L, to E.
Once you are comfortable with this figure, try it in trot. Do not hesitate to place a cone on either side of the quarterline where each 15-meter half-circle hits, if it makes it easier for you to familiarize yourself with this new placement.
When you feel confident in the geometry in walk and trot, the sky is the limit when it comes to variations of this exercise. Here are just a few ideas for how to make things as challenging (and rewarding) as you and your horse can handle:
Quick transitions: Ride the half-circles in trot and practice quick transitions (covered in the April 2014 issue) by riding a few walk steps on the diagonal to E before trotting down the track and executing your second half-circle.
Canter half-circles: Ride down the track and onto your half-circles in canter before transitioning to trot on the diagonal. See if you can make your transitions very precise—S and V are great markers to aim for—to see how responsive your horse is to your canter aid.
Add a 10-meter circle (volte): Once you have completed the first 15-meter half-circle between S and H and the diagonal to E, add a 10-meter circle (covered in the September 2014 issue) left at E before continuing down the track from E to K. Remember that your circle should hit X at the halfway point. Ride your half-circle left and diagonal back to E before riding a 10-meter circle right at E.
As you work the Bow Tie in all these forms, your geometry is as important as it has been in previous months. Otherwise, you are missing an essential part of the exercise. Remember: The goal is always to build upon exercises and figures you have already mastered to challenge yourself and your horse in more complex ways.
Until we keep building next month, happy riding!