This is a great, go-to exercise for many lower level horses. It encourages bend through the body as you spiral onto a smaller circle, and then helps with engaging the inside hind leg more and connecting the horse to the outside rein, as you leg yield out.
Start out on a 20m circle to the L. Establish a working trot with good energy and steady bend to the L. Gradually spiral the circle in, like a swirly lollipop, until you get down to a 10m circle. (10m is quarter line to quarter line in a standard dressage arena.)
Once the 10m circle is well established, with increased bend, then gradually leg yield back out to a 20m circle. Use your inside leg, just behind the girth, to push the horse back out onto a bigger circle. Stay steady with your outside rein to receive the horse’s energy. Repeat to the R. Notice which side is harder.
Pitfalls: As you spiral in to the 10m circle, think of riding UP and in, like riding up a ramp into a parking garage. Many horses tend to fall down on their forehand and in on their inside shoulder as you ride the circle smaller.
As you leg yield out, take care to control the horse’s shoulders, so that they don’t bulge out and fall over their outside shoulder. You want to push the whole horse out evenly, and you do not want the shoulders to fall out more quickly than the haunches. You also do not want the horse to leg yield out too quickly. Insist that it takes an entire circle, or even 2, to get back to the 20m circle. If the horse begins to fall out faster than you’d like, stop at whatever diameter you got to (like 16 or 18m) and stay on that size circle for one round before leg yielding the rest of the way out.
Let us know how this exercise works for your horse? Have you ridden it before?
About the Certified Instructor
Eliza Sydnor Romm is an FEI rider and trainer based in Snow Camp, NC. She is a USDF Certified Instructor Training-Fourth Level, successful competitor through Grand Prix and popular clinician. Eliza, and her assistant trainer, Kate Tackett, work with horses and riders of all levels and specialize in starting young horses under saddle. Visit www.elizasydnordressage.com for more information, find her on Facebook @ElizaSydnorDressage, and subscribe to her YouTube channel for some great instructional videos!