Exercises to Perfect Your Circles by Sandy Collier
“Rounding” the Circle
In the exercise, Baseball Diamond, you worked on steering by leaving out a base and cutting across to overcorrect a drift. Now, to perfect the roundness of your circles, ride the full diamond on a curving line. In other words, ride a perfect circle, using the four cor¬ners of the diamond as a guide to keep your circle from shrinking or bulging to become oblong, pear-shaped, or otherwise misshapen (fig. A).
A. Perfecting circle shape
To perfect the roundness of your circles, use the Baseball Diamond again (see p. 71). Ride the diamond on a curving line at the lope, using the four “bases” as a guide to keep your circle from shrinking or bulging out. As you round each base, strive to make a perfectly curved track to the next base, then round that base the same way. This is how you “build” a perfect circle. Be sure to work equally on both leads. Over time, the feeling of riding a perfectly shaped circle will become second nature to you and your horse.
For best results, place a visual marker, such as a traf¬fic cone, at each corner of the diamond. As you round the marker at a lope, strive to make a perfectly curved track to the next corner, then round that corner the same way you rounded the one before. In this way, you “build” a perfect circle.
Be sure to work equally on both leads. Over time, the feeling of riding a perfectly shaped circle will become second nature to you and your horse.
Cutting the Pie
When your horse is “hunting the circle” you’ve put him on, he’s on the same page as you. He’s looking in the direction he’s going and staying true to the circle, even on a loose rein. If, instead, he’s looking over at the barn and thinking that’s where he’d rather be, that’s where he’s going to go when you give him slack in the rein. He’ll bow or drift out, ruining the symmetry of the circle. When this happens, fix it by Cutting the Pie. Let him go ahead and drift…for a few strides, anyway. Then, with both hands moving toward your inside belt loop, steer him on a straight line through the center of the circle to the far side of it (as if cutting through the center of a pie), and pick up the track of the circle again, traveling in the same direction as you were. Put him on a loose rein again; if he drifts off course, guide him through the center of the circle again, picking up the track again on the far side. Viewed from above, your track should look roughly like a pie cut across in many places (fig. B).
B: Cutting the Pie
Teach your horse to “hunt the circle” (voluntarily stay on track, without drifting in or out) by using this exercise. Put your horse on a lope circle, then give him a loose rein. If he drifts (2), let him go for a few strides, then with both hands moving toward your inside belt loop, steer him on a straight line through the center of the circle (3-5) to the far side of it, and pick up the track of the circle again (6 & 7). Then turn him loose again. If he drifts, repeat the correction (8-11). This way, you’re not continuously holding him on the circle—you’re training him to do it. Work equally on both leads.
Any time your horse is actually “hunting the circle” with his ears and nose just sit quietly; this becomes his reward. But when he starts to drift, cut through the cen¬ter again. What you’re doing is putting him back on the circle whenever he strays, but not continuously holding him on the circle. You’re training him to do it.
Again, work equally on both leads. If you’re diligent with this exercise, over time your horse will begin to “hunt the circle” consistently, so that only a minimum of reining from you is necessary.
Sandy Collier’s successful horse show record is reflective of her dedication, talent, and integrity as a horse trainer. She was the first and only woman horse trainer to win the prestigious NRCHA World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity. In 2011, Sandy was inducted into The Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Learn more at SandyCollier.com.
READ ARTICLES BY SANDY COLLIER Visit Sandy’s Website
This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 6