In and Out Circle Exercise by Al Dunning
In the previous issue of Performance Horse Digest, I had explained the benefits and exercises used to perform athletic circles.
When your horse can perform the athletic circles consistently, rolling left to right and back left again, it’s time to work the same-side-to-same-side, in-and-out circle drill. As before, jog your horse in a 15-foot circle and soften your body into the stop position. But this time, you turn your horse to the inside of the circle. When you travel to the right, for example, you halt and roll your horse back to the right, either beginning a new circle adja¬cent the one you previously were riding, or moving the horse through a full turn before returning to the original circle at a trot.
With the same control as before, you now should be able to make symmetrical circles in the ground and without wandering about the arena. When you’ve made several good passes from a right circle to a right turn, roll your horse in the opposite direction and work a left circle to a left turn. You need to com¬plete several full circles between rollbacks or turns, keeping your horse’s mind and body soft and responsive.
As your horse halts, his nose in the hackamore softly follows your rein. He then rolls over his left hind foot to start the turn, which can be a 180-degree or a 360-degree turn, as shown.
This goes without saying: When perform¬ing this drill and all others, you must not get so caught up in the moment or one move-ment that you forget the big picture. Hauling your horse through the drill, just to satisfy a turn, while sacrificing proper handling of the hackamore, is a catastrophic blunder. This circle-to-circle exercise shapes up well with relative ease for anyone who has done his homework properly and continues to utilize good hands on the mecate.
Travel to the left, for example, on a small circle with your horse traveling in frame. Then relax in your saddle before making contact with the left rein and bumping it.
When you work half-turns, your tracks in the ground illustrate a tidy figure eight, without the tracks wandering off the circles. In the full-turn variation, this exercise should leave a clean, correct circular track behind.
Remember the near-weightless feel of the handkerchief on the tabletop —a metaphor for the desired feel when you ride? Show your horse how to be light in hand by never giving him anything to pull against. Use these drills as roadways to lightness, not as attempts to circle and turn faster than you did before. When your horse learns to move his feet without any resistance in his body, all his movements gain agility, and his quickness develops with that agility.
After the turn, send your horse out in another circle and make a few good passes around it. Then, as before, sit relaxed and again make contact with one rein to roll your horse back through himself and onto another circle.
Al Dunning is credited with 32 world-championship and reserve-championship titles. The knowledge and passion he shares in his clinics, videos, and lessons have molded not only average students, but also some of today’s most successful professional horse trainers. Dunning’s ability to reach people comes from his love of horses and out of respect to the mentors in his own life. For more information go to www.AlDunning.com
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 8
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