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Issue 11 2013
When your horse is responding well to Giving His Face (Essential
1 featured in last issue), begin Essential 2. Once you achieve the
Perfect Circle, you will understand the basics of maintaining control
over your horse's entire body a must for reining! The circle will
also serve as the foundation for the circles and spins you will see in
all the patterns to come.
When riding your perfect circles, you'll also discover and need to
overcome your horse's magnets distractions that attract him and
threaten to destroy the geometry of his circle.
The Goal
A perfect circle is a symmetric circle, meaning precisely round.
As your horse travels this circle, he should stay soft in your hand
and be flexed slightly to the inside through his neck and body. He
should walk in an even, four-beat rhythm, at a steady pace with no
deviations in speed. His hind feet should follow in the tracks of his
front. He should be equally soft and responsive in either direction.
Here's a Tip
Work on freshly raked ground so you can easily see you horse's
tracks, and enlist a friend to help you gauge the symmetry of your
Here's How
Walk your horse forward, using both your legs in neutral position
to move him in an energetic rhythm. Keeping both your lets active,
and with your hands 12 to 24 inches apart, apply light, direct-rein
pressure on what will become the inside of the circle (so that you
can just see the corner of his eye) and begin the circle. Use leg
pressure and your outside rein as need be to keep the circle round.
Most horses tend to be asymmetrical; going to their hollow side, they
tend to bend too much. Going to their stiff side, they tend to resist
bending. You will need to compensate for this.
Correcting problems on the right-hand circle
Because of their natural asymmetry, when circling to the right many
horses tend to tip their nose in (more easily than going left), bend
too much, and cock their rear end to the inside. This position and
centrifugal force then cause the circle to gradually enlarge. To
correct, apply your inside (right) leg behind neutral position to push
the horse's rear end back out. Keep enough tension on the outside
(indirect) rein to keep his shoulder from drifting out to the left,
straightening out his neck a bit so you can just see the corner of his
right eye. Apply your left leg at the cinch; that will also help to keep
that shoulder from drifting.
Correcting problems on the left-hand circle
Circling to the left, your horse may tend to resist bending or brining
his nose to the inside, instead leading with his inside (left) shoulder
and letting his hind end drift out. To correct, pick up his inside
shoulder with a "key in the ignition" lift and twist. Also apply
pressure with your inside (left) leg in neutral position to encourage
more bend, while pulling your outside (indirect) rein slightly outward
to the right, thus moving his shoulders out to the right. If necessary,
use your right leg a few inches behind neutral position to keep his
hindquarters from moving out.
As you strive to keep him aligned on the arc of the circle in either
direction, remember to keep him "giving his face" (staying soft in
your hand) and use both your legs to keep him moving forward at a
steady pace.
Troubleshooting Falling In or Bowing Out of the Circle
If your horse cuts in on a circle, pick up the shoulder that's falling
in, using the key in the ignition movement described earlier. At the
same time, pull your outside rein away from the `magnet' and use
your inside leg at the cinch to push his shoulders outward onto the
circle. Then overcorrect slightly by making your horse move a bit
farther out on the far side of the circle, while still maintaining his
body on the same arc.
If your horse bows out (pulls or drifts out), and causing a `bulge' in
your circle, draw your outside rein back and against your horse's
neck, to stop the outward drift of his shoulder, and apply your outside
leg in neutral position to correct the outward bulge in his barrel.
Overcorrect slightly by making him cut across the circle (as if, on a
baseball diamond, you're going from first base to third, and leaving
out `second').
Loses Impulsion and Focus ("wandering") Drive vigorously with
both legs in neutral position and cluck to keep him motivated and
moving with energy. Look for Essential 3 Walking A Counter-Arc
Circle, in our next issue of Performance Horse Digest!
Walking in a
Essential 2
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
by Sandy Collier