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#trainingtip Circles and Squares!

This blog accompanies the video posted on our Demi Dressage Facebook page this evening, and is one of my favourite exercises for helping young riders navigate the different lines required for the corners of the school compared to that of a 20m circle.

When a circle occurs in a dressage test, at the very simplest level the judge is looking to see that the rider understands the difference between the continuous curving line of a correct circle shape, compared to that of the normal corners of the school. (You may also find this previous blog post on Corners useful! )

Four our youngest riders therefore, simply demonstrating that they are able to ride the two different lines - into the corners when riding around the arena, and a smooth curve that does not go into the corners when riding a circle - is enough to achieve reasonable marks.

For more experienced riders, the judge wants to see the circle benefitting the pony. It may seem a simple shape, but it's actually quite hard to ride a smooth circle, showing correct bend all the way round and not deviating from the correct path (i.e. the pony does not 'fall in' or 'fall out' through its body). Ridden correctly, from inside leg to outside hand, the humble circle helps to supple the pony, and shows that he is working 'straight' (hind legs following the same path as the front legs) and in balance.

This 'circles and squares' exercise is fantastic for helping younger riders understand the difference between corners and a circle, particularly along the short ends of the arena where it is easy for the pony to get 'sucked in' to the corners if the rider does not actively keep turning and riding that smooth circle path.

It's easy to set up - I use three poles to make corners at E and B and at the centre point (X) where the circle should just touch, and then four cones, one in each corner. To ride a square, ride around the outside of the cones (red line). To ride a circle, ride around the inside of the cones (orange dashed line) - making sure that the pony touches each of the four points of the track (in this diagram, A, X, and the two points marked with a star 4m after the corner letters K and F) - just for a pony's length!

You can watch MiniD and Tangle riding this exercise in this video (also on our Facebook page)... Please excuse Tangle’s grumpy ‘is it STILL the Easter holidays?!’ aura...!

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