Riding the 20m circle: common problems and how to improve it

A 20m circle sounds simple, yet more often than not it’s ridden incorrectly. Dressage judge and trainer Alex Gingell tells you to execute a perfectly round shape every time in this sneak peak from the latest issue of Your Horse magazine. 

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There are two main problems encountered when riding a 20m circle:

1. Falling out

Problem: This happens on the rein your horse is more supple on. He’ll overbend to the inside and push his shoulders out, drifting off the circle.

Correction: To correct this you need to “shut the door” by closing your outside rein and, in order to correct, the overbending, a gentle hug with your outside leg to encourage your horse to remain on the correct line of the circle.

Your horse’s neck should always be in the centre of his shoulders.

2. Falling in

Problem: This happens on your horse’s stiffer side. He’ll drop his inside hindleg down and not step under his body. When he isn’t engaging his inside hindleg, the result is his inside shoulder is not supported, so he falls in.

Correction: You need to use your inside leg to teach him to step up off your leg aid and lift his shoulders so that he steps into the outside rein.

Focus your horse with these tips:

  • Suppling exercises, such as shoulder-in and leg-yield, will help your horse to step through with his hocks, encouraging him to use the muscles over his back and through his frame
  • Ride transitions, both upwards and downwards, to encourage your horse to step through with his hocks and use half-halts regularly to rebalance him and teach self-carriage
  •  Continuously change the bend and direction of your training to ensure that the bend is natural and even on both reins, and on different sized circles and loops
  • Work within the gears seamlessly with the use of half halts, lengthening and shortening the stride length so your horse remains responsive and on the aids while remaining elastic to the contact
  • Vary the work, to keep your horse alert but to remain settled and focused in new environments

Read the rest of this feature and more in the latest issue of Your Horse magazine. Jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves it's on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here.