It can be said that circles are the easiest and the most difficult shape to ride correctly.
Equitation patterns always include circles or part of a circle in conjunction with other exercises, so it’s a smart choice to learn how to ride a circle correctly.
Please note, that when a horse moves in a circle he bends his body to match the shape of the circle. To ride correctly, the horse shouldn’t drift to the outside, making the circle larger, or drift inward creating a smaller circle.
The shape of the circle is round. Not an egg shape, D-shape or oval and believe me, this is easier said than done.
A rider needs to have a good balanced independent seat to be able to correctly use all of the necessary aids while riding a horse for this pattern.
In order to ride a circle, the rider places more weight on the inside seat bone. The inside rein positions the horse’s head slightly to the inside shoulder and gives the horse direction and the amount of bend for the size of circle. The outside rein keeps elastic contact to hold the horse straight on course and sustains the balance, free forward movement and keeps the horse from drifting inward. The inside leg pushes against the horse and is the “driving” leg and keeps the shoulder up and out of the way and the outside leg lies against the horse and acts as a “keeping” leg that acts like a wall which keeps the horse from drifting outward.
To move straight on a curved line the horse’s inside back foot travels along the same line as the inside front foot and the outside back foot travels along the same line as the outside front foot.
Ideally a circle has between 16 to 24 strides total staying with an even number that is divisible by 4. Instead of concentrating on the entire circle as a whole in your head, visualize dividing the imaginary circle that’s on the ground into 4 equal parts as if you make a cross through the circle and the cross touch 4 points of the circle. From your starting point look to the 2nd point which is ¼ of the circle. Once you get about 2 strides before the 2nd point look ahead to the 3rd point and then the same for the 4th point and continuing to your starting point. This exercise allows you to concentrate on one quarter of the circle at a time rather than the whole circle which will help you keep on course.