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Circle exercises: A light front end

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - June 5th, 2014 - More with Les

68th in a series
After teaching us the importance of alignment last issue, Les puts us to work with simple circle exercises.

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.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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