AskHQ: Riding a circle

Q: How can you keep a horse straight and balanced on a circle?

A: Oddly enough a circle is actually a very good tool for assessing the straightness of your horse. It highlights if a rider has the horse between the outside rein and inside leg aids. In order to be ‘straight’, and therefore balanced, the horse needs the outside shoulder to support the inside hind leg. 

To help the horse, this exercise is initially done on a large 20m circle, and at walk. You are watching to make sure that as your horse bends around the circle, he is not ‘losing’ his outside shoulder. You need to establish the outside contact by keeping your outside hand in line with your outside hip, while maintaining pressure with the inside leg. The outside contact needs to be a hold, not a pull. If the shoulder pops out you need to correct it by strengthening your outside contact. Keep an eye out for horses who like to drift outwards as they get to the gate or move in the direction of home. You need to catch this behaviour as quickly as possible, and get the outside contact established again. A bit of outside leg may also soon be required!

You will soon realise how difficult it actually is to keep control of your horse’s outside shoulder for a whole circle! As balance improves this exercise will become easier.

Answered by Bronwen Meredith