Circles-a horse and rider post .

Some people find schooling their horse boring.  In my experience this is mainly due to lack of knowledge. Schooling helps keep horses supple; helps build confidence and balance; and it  is essential for riders to learn about  exercises that are integral to working a horse or pony.

Schooling also works the horses mind as well as the  body. It promotes development of the muscular system of the horse and has a  huge impact on gymnastising both horse and rider.

So how does someone who finds schooling “boring”  start to educate themselves?

My answer is start with a simple idea- by allowing 15 minutes to go into a school and get a feel for what needs doing. 15 minutes can be really useful and can kick start the process of learning to enjoy schooling.Everything begins somewhere and 15 minutes can really help improve horse and rider skills and co ordination.

The aims of schooling are mostly listed above but the principal of schooling is to enable the horse to move his weight from the forehand -which is natural but detrimental when carrying a rider -and to help him to redistribute it to his haunches, which will help the horse to move more comfortably when carrying a rider.

Lets start with a basic exercise. I love circles!

Why are circles so important?

  • They help develop bend in the horse
  • They insist on a correct leg position from the rider-a correctly positioned inside leg and the outside leg needs to be correctly placed behind the girth.
  • They insist on a correctly positioned upper body positioning of the rider-if you do not sit and look ahead and position your body the horse cannot begin to balance himself
  • The horse starts to understand about taking his forehand and shoulders away from the fence line of the school.
  • Circles help to develop strength in the horse-the ability to maintain his balance on a curved line
  • Circles also help to establish a continuous bending of the horses body, therefore establishing suppleness-and influence the stretching and elevation of  the outside of the horse’s body.
  • Circles can also be developed in many different ways, and lateral work can be incorporated at a later date-in fact many exercises are developed from circle work

All of that just from a few circles-what is not to like?

When you walk into a school-walk around and feel how the horse is moving. Does he have a rhythm? Does he stumble? Is he too slow? Too fast? Think about these things and if any one of the above is true start to ride big circles at either end of the school, 20 metre circles are ideal to start with. The horse still has a fence to help him balance and it help to the rider to perfect riding circles.

On the circle ride a few transitions-halt to walk-walk to halt-walk to trot-and downward to walk. When you have done this ride more circles at a pure gait (all walk/all trot).

Next step.  Go to another area of the school and work in the centre-this is harder, as the horse only has the fence to balance against at the E and B markers. This is great exercise for balancing a horse-and at this point riders also need to think about correct aiding and overall body position.

Guess what?  You are already past your 15 minutes-and your horse will already be benefiting.

This is just the first of many schooling posts, more will be available in the next few months.

If you would like help with your horse’s schooling or more ideas please use the contact form or email Pennie at

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