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Lesson - Circle, Circle, Circle

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  • #21
    If I'm in dire need of getting out of circle of hell, I'd turn to the instructor, and ask, "We have been in the circle for a while, are we making any improvement? - what exactly should I be feeling?" Hopefully the instructor will respond with something like, for example, "poopsie is finally learning to use his inside hind a little bit, but he reaaallly needs to carry himself more. You should feel his hind end push your seat bone more and release of his back." and so on and so forth. With this kind of communication, you can understand the goal/end game your instructor has in mind, and then you can focus on that. More than likely, you will then forget that you are in the circle of hell, and more than likely you will get out of it sooner.


    • #22
      When I was riding hunters, sitting on a little circle for an hour was foreign to me and seemed weird. I thought I could never do dressage because sitting on a 20M circle seemed so boring.

      Then, I started taking dressage lessons - and there is SO MUCH you can do with a horse on that circle! We used it to get my horse more relaxed back in the day, we use it for green horses, to get them more rhythmic and steady in work, all kinds of things. When I progressed more, we went off the circle and learned other things, like shoulder and haunches in, practiced dressage tests, etc.

      Recently, I had two rides on a tense horse. The first one, I rode her in the entire arena, with circles and serpentines. The entire hour, she was tense, had her head in the air, kept trying to bolt with me - it was a mess. AT the end of the hour, she was better, but still very willing to bolt and run. I rode her a few days later (no one rode her in between) and put her on a 20M circle. We practiced stretching and relaxing. In less than a half hour, she started to relax, stretch her head down and even relax enough to break into a walk - quite the opposite of the bolting she was doing earlier.

      As others have said, putting her on a circle, where the bend is not changing a lot, helped steady her and get her mind in the game. The circle is not the end all, be all, but I find it very helpful.


      • #23
        Originally posted by mvp View Post
        I don't think its psychologically great for horses. I think it can feel like a 5 hour meeting dedicated to getting the legislative language of a bill Just. Right. In other words, the "better" and "worse" for the horse are very fine and the exercise goes on and on. Anyone would start playing with their cell phone at some point... if they had a cell phone or opposable thumbs.
        I love this description. Love, love, love it!


        • #24
          OP, I don't like indoor arenas either. They are just boring to me but useful in inclimate weather. But I too, am in the 20m Circle of Hell and I am coming to appreciate it. I am brand new to eventing and at first wondered why we stayed in such a tight circle that was obviously too small for my horse! (She's 17.2) I soon learned why. WE are being taught to bend, WE are learning to get her haunches under her, to round up. It allows us to get the most out of our 45 min lesson. We aren't spending time covering ground in the arena. We are front and center for our instructor. We can trot a straight line for days. We need to learn bending and flexibility and no better way than in that infinitely small, tight circle!
          "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope


          • #25
            repetitive circles may help with learning/training, but they are also very hard on the horse's joints. Quite the trade off.
            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


            • #26
              If you want to event you must be Absolutely. Up. Close. And. Personal. With. 20m. Circles.
              In every test all the way up the levels from Intro, Baby Beginner Novice on up to Rolex you have got to be able to have your horse carry himself on the 20m circle in the dark blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back.
              Hard work? boring? tough on horses? all yes but eventing is tough too. If he can't maintain a frame in a 20m circle by rote, you have little chance of of trusting him to be athletic enough to do the saving grace fifth-leg jump out on cross country when you put him really wrong at the biggest fence on course....as I have done and lived to tell about it only because my horse is a master at the fifth leg technique -- long practice saving my butt!
              Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
              Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


              • #27
                It so depends upon the instructor and how you work the circle...can be the circle of hell or yoga for horses...a perfect circle is a very hard thing to do and once you have that all the rest of your work comes so much more easily. If it feels 'right' as though the two of you are becoming balanced, straight and rythmic it's a good thing -- it's kind of amazing how much can be accomplished on the circle -- it is far less forgiving than the whole ring in terms of telling you where your horse is in terms of straight, forward and balanced. The whole ring is easy, the circle is HARD!!!


                • #28
                  Quote LSM 212"I had a past trainer do this and I was told later on by someone else that the reason they do that is so they can just stand in the middle of the circle and not have to move around while they teach. " Quote

                  Poor teaching technique. An instructor misses a lot from in there. It also show a lack of depth in the teacher's toolbox.

                  Correct circles are very important, they are a foundation gymnastic exercise for the horse. But for the horse's sake and the rider's education they have to be used intelligently.
                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                  • #29
                    Hey OP. There is no harm in just telling your instructor that full-time circling may be good for your riding but it is driving you a bit mental and can we please mix it up a bit if only for the sake of your mental health! Reading around the edges of your posts it sounds as though she is a serious and correct trainer, but that her style is a bit of a boot-camp approach for you. It is possible for this training to be very good for both you and your horse, while at the same time not very enjoyable for you. That's perfectly okay - horses and lessons cost us a lot of money, so you get to do it in a way that you like. While I'm sure you are very serious about your riding, you might just need a bit more transition time into that style, or perhaps you never will want to work that way. I cannot imagine an instructor not understanding this. She might think you will not make as much progress that way, and that might be true, but this is too expensive a hobby not to be truly enjoying yourself a good percentage of the time.


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by CHT View Post
                      repetitive circles may help with learning/training, but they are also very hard on the horse's joints. Quite the trade off.
                      This is what I worry about. My horse is older now and has an old hip injury. Along with arthritis which is to be expected at his age and with all the things he's done in his lifetime. He's had a rough road in all the years I've owned him (lameness issues, feet issues, emergency colic surgery and so on). We are riding more for fun than competition. But I do want to ride him correctly and for him to go correctly as well as I know in the end, that will help keep him strong and sound. But I don't want to tax him as I'd like him to stay sound for as long as possible. I feel like I'm on limited time with him and I want to enjoy it and for it to be fun for both of us.

                      I like to take lessons as it gives me something to focus on since I seem to just "waffle" around if left to my own devices. I probably will never compete again (we did Hunters and some low level Eventing in our past) but if I do, it will be a small local show anyways.

                      So I need to find a happy medium for the both of us. Circle work as I know it is needed but not all the time. And that's what I'd like to get across to the trainer. She knows I'm not inspiring to do anything grand. But she's more hard core and has done a lot at her young age. She's ridden with/worked for a BNT that is very well known. So I'm blessed to have her experience and knowledge at my disposal.

                      I think we are going in the right direction. And 2 rides a week on a circle won't kill him nor me (1 training ride and 1 lesson). And then the other 3 rides I do on my own, we can mix it up. I just didn't know if that was the norm.

                      I will talk to her about having a few breaks during my lesson to get off the circle. So we both can stay sane!

                      ETA: Visorvet hit the nail on the head! I don't mind slow and steady and we don't ever have to be "show perfect". Thanks to everyone for their input. I guess I should have added the information above to my first post. About my goals and wants.


                      • #31
                        You could just say: "My vet doesn't want me doing much longing or repetitive circles with horse as his joints are starting to show his age."

                        You can learn how to circle, without doing them end on end.
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • #32
                          Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                          If you can't do it on a circle, where it is all easy to control and keep it together, how are you going to be able to do it out on the big, long straight away
                          While I totally agree with 95% of yellowbritches, I just have to add that for me at least, things are easier on the straights--I have a tendency to get tense on circles.
                          I've had a lesson here and there that were just one big circle, but these are really rare. The last was on a new horse that really needed a lot of help keeping herself together, so we rode about a 20-meter circle, with my trainer giving constant (and I mean CONSTANT) feedback on position, aids, everything. We didn't do any faster than a working trot.
                          Folks so far has been very tactful. I'll be the mean one and say a constant circle is excessive. I love yellowbritches "circle of doom": it's a great tool for training, but it's not a way of life.
                          So far as the trainer experience goes, it's definitely easier to watch and notice certain things at the 90-degree angle (where they'd be in your circle), and easier on their voice, but they really should be able to see things from a variety of angles, and I've never known a trainer without fantastic lungs for shouting at me to close my fingers
                          Sometimes the horse needs circle work to help them learn to carry themselves , but every horse needs variety.
                          And I'd disagree with the "it's just where you need to be for now" statement: you're not new to riding and based on what you've said, unless your trainer is talking at you constantly, giving continuous feedback on position, your horse AND you need more than a circle.
                          I need my horse to focus on all different kinds of scenarios (on the straightaway on a dressage test, on a circle, between related distances, during a x-country gallop), so I need to be able to ask for focus in all different scenarios. Same goes for me: I need to be able to use all my aids in all different positions.
                          Furthermore, I totally disagree with this so far as dressage philosophy: all the greats stress straightness, and while circles are necessary, your horse HAS to learn to be straight. Alois Podhajsky (director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna) said "Balance can be obtained and collection possible only if the horse is straight" and "The importance of straightness is emphasized in one of the most fundamental rules of equitation: Straighten your horse and ride him forward."
                          Circles are fundamental. But doing them all the time is a horrible mistake.


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by amytheolympian View Post
                            Furthermore, I totally disagree with this so far as dressage philosophy: all the greats stress straightness, and while circles are necessary, your horse HAS to learn to be straight. Alois Podhajsky (director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna) said "Balance can be obtained and collection possible only if the horse is straight" and "The importance of straightness is emphasized in one of the most fundamental rules of equitation: Straighten your horse and ride him forward."
                            Circles are fundamental. But doing them all the time is a horrible mistake.
                            I don't think you are interpreting the quotes entirely correctly. The horse must be straight and travel straight, on a circle as well as on a straight line (as well as being correctly straight in other figures and exercises). In other words, on a circle, the hind feet should be following the same tracks as the front feet. The horse's body should be on the same curve as the circle's circumference. That is "straight on the circle." Furthermore, to "practice straight" you don't just do straight lines. The most fundamental exercises for getting a horse straight are those that allow you to control the horse's body, e.g. leg-yield, shoulder-in, haunches-in.

                            You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


                            • #34
                              Quote-Furthermore, I totally disagree with this so far as dressage philosophy: all the greats stress straightness, and while circles are necessary, your horse HAS to learn to be straight. Alois Podhajsky (director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna) said "Balance can be obtained and collection possible only if the horse is straight" and "The importance of straightness is emphasized in one of the most fundamental rules of equitation: Straighten your horse and ride him forward."
                              Circles are fundamental. But doing them all the time is a horrible mistake. amytheolympian _Quote

                              I think that here is a misinterpretation of the term "straight" as used in dressage. A straight horse is a horse that is equally strong on both sides. The circle particularly when progressed through the 10 m circle and then into S/I is one of the ways we encourage this straightness. But if the rider doesn't have the ability to ride and control that circle, they will not have the ability to ride and hold a correct S/I
                              Last edited by merrygoround; May. 13, 2013, 02:57 PM.
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • #35
                                ^^^ my understanding, and a major emphasis in my own work toward straightness, is that it is improved on the circle. Indeed, just worked on this with BN dressage trainer yesterday.


                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by CHT View Post
                                  repetitive circles may help with learning/training, but they are also very hard on the horse's joints. Quite the trade off.
                                  I think I see where OP is coming from and it's not quite the same place as others assume.

                                  OP has quite the journey with this horse. It's a QH with a good dose of of TB, very nice horse that was supposed to be a Hunter.

                                  Unfortunately it did suffer a back end injury with lasting effects, she can share the details if she chooses. He is quite useable but there are some things that are difficult for horses with similar issues.

                                  Might be a bit questionable to dwell on a 20m circle. Sometimes even the best trainers are overly optimistic when they throw out the old "you won't hurt him. He'll be fine", especially with even mild limitations. They don't know for sure if its beneficial or not.

                                  I think OP is right to question this. Don't think she is being a worry wort or over protective at all.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                  • #37
                                    Important detail and one to share with trainer.


                                    • #38
                                      Good detail. Is there room to make the circle bigger? I try to stay out around 30 meters most of the time with my mare because of her joint issues, if all we're working on is "the circle."

                                      I would like to do more serpentines and other changes of bend/direction... I seem to get a lot more out of it, and the best calming exercise for my mare is endless 3 loop serpentines with occasional changes of direction. It's more of a "safe place" for her than a plain circle, because it engages her busy Morgan brain a bit more.
                                      You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                      1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                                      • #39
                                        I do also get to counterbend down the straightaway or around the entire arena in my lessons. Maybe you can suggest that exercise to your trainer. It gets you out of the circle but you are still working your horse and helping them stretch and loosen.


                                        • #40
                                          OP, can you clarify whether this trainer is having you maintain bend or if she is just having you work on things in a generally circular pattern?

                                          It's a useful distinction. I used to save up my dollars and drive 9 hours to have monthly lessons with a GP Dressage trainer. She would keep me to about half her arena, and we were in sort of a circle, but I wasn't maintaining a bend all the time. We were working all sorts of things, and the "circle" was between 20m and 30m. My horse was pretty free to wiggle a little on and off the circular track, and I don't feel like that kind of circle would be much harder on the horse than doing laps of the whole arena...it did help to keep my (and horse's) focus contained, and kept us in good earshot/view of the trainer through the whole exercise.

                                          To add context here, I'm at the level of Dressage where this trainer spent 90% of the lesson actively correcting my timing and giving continuous feedback...at the walk.

                                          "And leg ON, ON! Feel the ribcage swing toward you, and NOW...NOW...NOW...more noseband pressure, more, more, DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT MORE MEANS? THERE! Can you feel...oh, it's gone, and LEG...LEG...DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR RIGHT SEATBONE IS? EVER?"

                                          Trying to manage me to that level if I'd had to worry about straightaways and 4 distinct corners...that would definitely have hindered progress. She had me change direction when she got dizzy, and when my mare started to wander the circle closer and closer in to the instructor, she'd let us stop and have a breather.

                                          Another point to consider is how often you have lessons. This instructor of mine knew that she'd see me at most once a month. She also knew that the rest of my ride time was spent on trails outside and doing the odd Hunter-type round. In that context, the circle work was not really harmful...the horse was fit, and the work on the circle was intended to be an intense period of instruction for me, but practiced/repeated off the circle.

                                          As we got more familiar with each other (and I got less dumb and could handle more complicated instructions), she'd send me down the quarter lines every few circles, and then have me leg yield to the wall and maintain bend to resume a real (with bend) circle. As soon as we started working more often at the trot, she had me off the circle more regularly, and when we worked the canter, we'd only circle 3 or 4 times before changing something up.

                                          It's worth discussing with her, certainly...but I do know that even in H/J lessons, when I'm having a one-on-one, most of my lessons end up in smaller portions of the arena. It just kind of goes that way.
                                          Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior