Q: When I’m schooling my mare, I can’t get her to do a proper 20m circle on the left rein. Halfway around, she falls in and cuts the circle in half, and I find myself using the outside rein to take her back out to the circle. Do you have any advice which might help us?
Tina Sederholm answers:
Horses can get into the habit of doing the same thing – eg, cutting in – at the same place on a circle, until the rider does something about it. To correct this, do something before she has started to cut in on the circle, rather than once she has begun.
Identify the point on the circle where she begins to put her weight to the inside. Next time you approach that part of the circle, make a transition to walk just before she starts to cut in. Then push her out with your inside leg in the walk. At the same time as using your leg, it is perfectly acceptable to lead out with your outside rein to back up your leg aid, whilst keeping a light contact on the inside rein to help keep the bend.
When she has responded to your inside leg, go forward in trot and around on the circle. Repeat this a couple of times until she is responding well, then next time, just take a half-halt and ask her to move away from your inside leg.
The other thing to check is that you are not collapsing to the inside at the same time she cuts in. Horses are generally very responsive to the rider’s weight, so if your left leg is weaker, you will almost certainly be dropping your head and shoulders to the left when you try to use that leg. This makes your bodyweight go to the right, so the horse shifts his to the left – ie, onto the shoulder.
Caught on camera
Ask a friend to watch or film you whilst riding, so that you can check if you are collapsing to the inside – particularly on the left rein. You need someone else to check because if you have been doing it for a while, you probably won’t notice it yourself.
A quick way to rectify this fault is to ride without stirrups, because then you will feel when you are shifting about much more. Also, as an exercise only, if you look to the outside just before your mare starts to fall in, you will automatically keep your inside hip travelling forward correctly, which will prevent some of the collapsing. When you stop collapsing to the inside, she will stop cutting in so much and your corrective aids will have a more profound effect.