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    Smaller circles

    By Les Vogt | Horsetrader columnist - November 2nd, 2018 - More with Les

    Last issue, Les taught us the importance of good “shoulders up” posture for proper alignment in a circle. Now we’ll look deeper into circle exercises.

    Here is a horse (left) that is dropping his shoulders to the inside. You can correct this by pushing the ribs way out (right).

    Here is a horse (left) that is dropping his shoulders to the inside. You can correct this by pushing the ribs way out (right).

    As you ask your horse to handle smaller circles, you’ll want to remember the motorboat image we discussed before. Keeping your weight back will encourage your horse to do the same, therefore lightening up his front end for easy maneuvering.

    To start this exercise, pick up a trot with the rail of your arena on your right-hand side. In diagonal corners you will want to maneuver the horse into approximately 30-foot diameter circles. To begin, using a very light direct and neck rein, start your circle to the left. If you immediately get a response—great! If not, tell him he should have responded by collecting him with your hands and then bringing his nose a little more firmly to the inside while keeping your outside rein out and away from his neck.

    This will set your horse back a little, shifting more of his weight to his hindquarters, at the same time making him move a little more dramatically to the inside with his front end. Within the next couple of strides, repeat the same cue and correction sequence.

    At first you’ll be riding what will look more like a square or even an octagon than a circle, but as the horse starts to understand the sequence, he will start to balance himself to respond to the light cues, rather than waiting for you to correct him. Once the horse is responding well at the trot, move on to the lope.

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