The basics of dressage focus on asking your horse to move forward into contact in a relaxed manner so you can create a connection. In the quest for connection, riders spend countless hours on the 20-meter circle. However, there are other figures and exercises you can use to avoid the boredom of repetitive circles. By doing exercises that require you to think about your horse’s bend and direction, you can improve his movement and find that connection.
A figure-eight is two circles that have a tangent straight stride in the middle. As you cross the center of the arena to change direction and ride the second circle, there will be one stride of straightness perpendicular to the centerline where the two circles meet. Start by doing two 20-meter circles. As you and your horse advance, you can try 10-meter circles
This exercise is three 20-meter half-circles that are connected. Starting at A, ride half of a 20-meter circle. When you get to the centerline, change your horse’s bend and ride another half-circle in the other direction. When you reach the centerline again at the 40-meter line, change your horse’s bend again and ride the final 20-meter half-circle.
A four-loop serpentine in the dressage arena is based on four 15-meter loops. You’ll alternate bend the same way you did in the three-loop serpentine, but your horse will travel straight for a bit longer as you change direction in this exercise as your loops are no longer perfect half-circles.
The six-loop serpentine is done in the 20×60 meter dressage arena between the quarterlines. You’ll make six 10-meter half circles, alternating bend, staying between the quarterlines and changing bend at the centerline.
Get full descriptions of these exercises and more from Susan Friend LeTourneur in the November 2012 issue of Horse Illustrated