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All you need is 20-Meters

Updated: Jul 16, 2023



Your instructor has had you on the 20-meter circle for the 12 millionth time and you wonder if you will ever see a straight line again. Why are they so insistent on riding this circle over and over? What are they looking for? What does it mean for you and your horse in the future?

The 20-meter circle is the basis of every movement in dressage. It is the exercise that not only prepares you and the horse for each movement that you will encounter, it also will test if you are ready to perform the movements in each ride. It is your warmup, your preparation, and your test.

How can riding this darn circle help you?

1. Teaches you and the horse control of the outside shoulder.

2. Teaches the horse to lift the inside ribcage.

3. Teaches the rider how to influence the inside ribcage.

4. Teaches the horse how to carry on the outside hindleg and engage the inside hindleg.

5. Teaches the rider how to ask for engagement.

6. Teaches the horse straightness (that seems backwards…I know)

7. Teaches the rider how to align the inside hindleg with the outside shoulder (straightness)

8. Teaches the horse to accept the aids.

9. Teaches the rider how to influence each body part of the horse.

10. Gives the rider an idea of where the horse is falling short and where the rider is falling short.

11. Relaxes the horse due to predictability and routine.

12. Gives the rider and horse structure and purpose.

What are all of these points important? Each of these points are the exact elements that must be present to perform each movement.

A few examples:

1. Shoulder in- Control of the outside shoulder, carrying power of the outside hind, engagement of the inside hind.

2. Half pass- Control of the shoulder, engagement of the inside hind, carrying and pushing power off of the outside hind, lifting of the inside ribcage.

3. Flying Changes- Control of the shoulders and hind end, straightness, engagement of the inside hind and new inside hind, swinging of the ribcage.

4. Pirouettes- Carrying power behind, lifting of the inside ribcage, lifting and control of the shoulders.

You see, if you do not have control of these small aspects on the 20-meter circle, you surely will not have them in the more advanced movements. Spend the time to perfect the circle with the reassurance that you are working on your future.


So, how do you ride a circle?

Lets take the 20-meter circle at E and B as our example.

  • Think of the circle as a clock E- 12 O'clock, B- 6 O'clock, Centerline point- 3 O'clock, Centerline point 2- 9 O'clock.

  • 9 O'clock and 3 O'clock are located 2 meters on the inside of the intermediate letters (S, R, V, P). If you rode to the intermediate letters then the "circle" would be a 24-meter oval.

  • You have 4 turning points on a circle

  • For an average sized dressage horse there are 4 strides or so between each turning point.

  • Each turning point is to be ridden like a turn on the haunches with an idea of a slight overturn to the inside with the outside shoulder

  • The spaces between the turning points are to be ridden like a leg yield (assuming you turned enough at the turning point)

  • You can think of a circle as a constant spiral in and out. This keeps the horse in your inside leg and outside rein aids

  • When the horse deviates from your points, then you can access whether your aids were actually there or that the horse did not respond to the aids. If the points of the circle are not in focus then this concept is hard to determine.

  • Ride the circle like this each and every time for consistency and measuring ability

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CIRCLE? Sign up for a virtual lesson or in person lesson today

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