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Are circles natural for horses?

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  • Are circles natural for horses?

    The other day I was piddling around the ring talking to another rider/boarder. I forget exactly what we were talking about but she was talking about soundness and keeping horses sound. She went on to say how jumping and going in circles is not natural for horses. I agree that jumping 4' courses is by no mean natural for a horse, but the simple function of jumping certainly is. However, I was totally confused by her claim that going in circles is not natural for horses. Can someone explain this idea?

    I am previously from a dressage background and the basic philosophy behind dressage is for the horse to be able to do everything under saddle that they can do at liberty. There are lots of circles in dressage, so I have always seen circles as natural, rather general movements for horses. You see horses go in circles without riders on the lunge line and in round pens after all. Hardly seems unnatural.

  • #2
    Originally posted by alternate_universe View Post

    I am previously from a dressage background and the basic philosophy behind dressage is for the horse to be able to do everything under saddle that they can do at liberty.
    This whole idea sounds bizarre. Piaffes and passages aren't natural but they're a part of dressage. How is that any more natural than a circle?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Rel6 View Post
      This whole idea sounds bizarre. Piaffes and passages aren't natural but they're a part of dressage.
      Sure they are. Haven't you ever seen a horse turned out, showing off for the ladies in a new herd? My late OTTB could and would do both... just not under saddle...

      Interesting question as to whether circles are natural. I've certainly noticed most horses GRAZE around the perimeter of a circle in a fenced pasture, but I guess one would need to observe them in the wild to know for sure.
      "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

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      • #4
        Well... horses are evolved to do several things quite well: eat grass, cover lots of distance at slow speed, and travel very quickly in straight lines.

        While they can go in circles, and often do, what they would do in nature is very different from the bending/circling demanded of them under saddle or on the lunge line, in whatever discipline.

        But then, bearing weight on their backs or pulling it, or hopping over colored poles, or living in a stall half the day, none of that is natural for them either.
        "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

        My CANTER blog.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by War Admiral View Post
          Sure they are. Haven't you ever seen a horse turned out, showing off for the ladies in a new herd? My late OTTB could and would do both... just not under saddle...

          Interesting question as to whether circles are natural. I've certainly noticed most horses GRAZE around the perimeter of a circle in a fenced pasture, but I guess one would need to observe them in the wild to know for sure.

          Thanks for explaining. I've found many people outside of dressage do not realize that. Pretty much all upper level movements, with maybe the exception of some of the haute ecole movements (capriole, courbette, etc.) are totally doable by a horse on thier own. Stallions can be see at piaffe and passage when courting a mare. Horses playing around in the field will half pass and leg yield. Nothing unnatural there.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by caffeinated View Post
            Well... horses are evolved to do several things quite well: eat grass, cover lots of distance at slow speed, and travel very quickly in straight lines.

            While they can go in circles, and often do, what they would do in nature is very different from the bending/circling demanded of them under saddle or on the lunge line, in whatever discipline.

            But then, bearing weight on their backs or pulling it, or hopping over colored poles, or living in a stall half the day, none of that is natural for them either.
            And this is why working horses have to be conditioned properly to do such things!! It isn't "natural" for them, though they are clearly capable, but the right muscles need to be slowly built up in order for a horse to circle, bend, collect, etc. safely and without injury.
            Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

            PONY'TUDE

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            • #7
              Originally posted by alternate_universe View Post
              Thanks for explaining. I've found many people outside of dressage do not realize that. Pretty much all upper level movements, with maybe the exception of some of the haute ecole movements (capriole, courbette, etc.) are totally doable by a horse on thier own. Stallions can be see at piaffe and passage when courting a mare. Horses playing around in the field will half pass and leg yield. Nothing unnatural there.
              Story from an old guy who had been working a Lippazan or Andalusion, not his usual - "They really do that sh!t on their own!" I think it was under saddle, but certainly hadn't been taught to do it and it wasn't welcomed.
              Visit my Spoonflower shop

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              • #8
                My ArabxASB passages in turnout, lol. A friend's arab cross would piaffe in cross ties when he got sick of standing there.
                Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by red mares View Post
                  Story from an old guy who had been working a Lippazan or Andalusion, not his usual - "They really do that sh!t on their own!" I think it was under saddle, but certainly hadn't been taught to do it and it wasn't welcomed.
                  Yep. I had a TB stallion I saw doing courbette leaps in pasture as a 3 year old. I told him he better NEVER try that under saddle . We also got in a tight spot once that made him nervous and he did a capriole leap under me - it was interesting and not hard to ride. He just leaped straight up with his back flat, I heard his hind feet hit a wood fence behind us, and then he landed back in the original spot.

                  Christa

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                  • #10
                    One thing I have noticed is when horses are playing and running in circles at liberty, they invariably carry their heads to the OUTside and their shoulders popped "in,"--so I would say that while circling is natural up to a point, the natural bend would be a counter-bend.

                    My feeling on circling, jumping, even cantering a bunch is that horses in a natural state do all of these things in brief bursts momentarily; if a ditch or a log is in the way they will jump it without a thought.

                    Where we err is in expecting them to do it to excess, day in and day out, for years while we learn how to count to five.

                    For that reason, these days I try to do as much of my flat schooling as possible on the trails, rather than drilling in a ring.

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                    • #11
                      A mare I used to have would get fresh in the winter and would like to play, so I got in the habit a couple days a week in the winter (when she wouldn't get outside) of letting her loose in the indoor. Much to my surprise she must have really enjoyed jumping because she would jump around the course that was set in the indoor complete with lead changes in the corners! That isn't natural but I always figured she really just loved her job!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Rel6 View Post
                        This whole idea sounds bizarre. Piaffes and passages aren't natural but they're a part of dressage.
                        Add Capriole, Croupade, Ballotade.... Ever met an American Saddlebred?
                        Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

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                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          My question really is though, if circles are unnatural, why? Is it because horses don't naturally bend like that?

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                          • #14
                            Well, I know that my horse jumped wooden paddock fences and hot wire over the years. Sometimes to get to mares and sometimes because he didn't like the flies or was mad because it was raining and he wanted into the barn.

                            And as for circles, well once I showed up at the barn just as the 15 horse herd thundered up from the back pasture. Four horses started cantering in a small circle, I guess 15 meters? in a counterclockwise rotation while one horse, yes mine, was cantering in a clockwise circle right there with them. After about 4 circles, Cloudy thought hmmmmmm might want to go the other way since I might get hit, so he turned around and cantered in the same directions as the other horses.

                            So I'd say that cantering in circles is normal for domesticated horses, as is jumping 4 or 5 ft. Depends on the horse.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Of course jumping over something, or turning in a tight circle, or sprinting a quarter mile are all things a horse is CAPABLE of doing in nature. But the trouble starts when humans ask them to do it every day, over and over again.

                              If I'm being chased by a serial killer, I could run a 6-minute mile. ONCE.

                              That's why conditioning and correct schooling is important, and helps keep them sound doing these things all the time. But there's a reason why horses living in (or close to) their natural state don't have nearly as many issues regarding soundness, colic, vices, etc.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                "Natural state?" My wb had never been rained on until I bought him. He did not grown long hair for years, and shivered in the winter. In Savannah.

                                My 3 ottb mares all needed blankets in winter as well. And none of my horses, grade, tb or wb, could every go w/o shoes.

                                None of my horses were bred to be hardy. So their "natural state" was bred to run (for the tb mares) and bred to jump and piaffe (the Hessen).

                                And in the wild, of course, feral horses get laminitis and founder and colic, etc. We just don't see all that because no one goes out and lives among the herds as did Farley Mowat with the Alaska wolves. (Never Cry Wolf is a great book.)

                                I do agree that today's horses are not bred to be as tough as they were when I was a kid. But I think both tb breeders and the breeders of other horses should try to produce horses that can perform longer with less breakdowns and lameness than they are doing now.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by alternate_universe View Post

                                  I am previously from a dressage background and the basic philosophy behind dressage is for the horse to be able to do everything under saddle that they can do at liberty.
                                  I understood Dressage (to train) originated in battle. Horses were trained to perform movements to protect the rider and offer better fighting opportunity for the soldier. This is also why we mount from the left due to the soldiers weapons.

                                  As far as the circle question - anything over done is not good and you could justify a circle is natural or it's not. If you don't over do things and your horse is sound and happy then your good.

                                  I also believe Dressage goes further by proper training, balance, flexion and use of the horses body in a balanced way promotes a sounder horse anyway.
                                  Live in the sunshine.
                                  Swim in the sea.
                                  Drink the wild air.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by doublesstable View Post
                                    I understood Dressage (to train) originated in battle. Horses were trained to perform movements to protect the rider and offer better fighting opportunity for the soldier. This is also why we mount from the left due to the soldiers weapons.

                                    As far as the circle question - anything over done is not good and you could justify a circle is natural or it's not. If you don't over do things and your horse is sound and happy then your good.

                                    I also believe Dressage goes further by proper training, balance, flexion and use of the horses body in a balanced way promotes a sounder horse anyway.


                                    Yes, some of the haute ecole movements were specificially used as escape maneuvers. However, as already said, they are things horses can already do on their own. I suppose someone saw what horses could do out in the field and realized that the movemetns would be useful in battle. It was just a matter of teaching the horse to do it under saddle and attaching an aid to it.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My TB gelding can do a couple of circles of caprioles without stopping on the lunge.

                                      We had just put him on the lunge for the vet after a couple of months of stall rest, rehab, etc. to see how sound he was. His feet barely touched down.

                                      Our jaws dropped. We were relieved after a few minutes when he quit the airs above the ground and just galloped.


                                      No wonder the silly git keeps injuring himself.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        According to Frederico Tesio, circling comes naturally. I can't remember if it's in Breeding the Racehorse or In His Own Words, but he commented that when training his string on the Downs, the lads would circle the horses around him, waiting for instructions. The horses would always make a perfect circle, though not necessarily with him at the center of it.

                                        Of course, he also believed that jumping ability was not a heritable trait, so take what you will from it.
                                        Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.

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