Training Tip Tuesday: Improving Your Stretch Circle

Amelia Newcomb is back with a video that will be useful for eventers, too! The stretch circle is a big part of some upper level tests, sure, but the concept behind it is applicable to any level. In this video, Amelia will show you more about this exercise and what the dressage judges will be seeking.

From Amelia:

In this video, we will be talking about the stretch circle with Nicole, a licensed EC Dressage judge. The stretch circle can be a difficult movement, as it is a test of your connection with your horse from the hind leg through the back and to the mouth. It also is a great test of relaxation, suppleness, and balance! This movement is seen both in the Training and First Level tests and Nicole will be talking us through the requirements for each and giving me a score as I demonstrate incorrect vs. correct stretch circles.

What makes a good stretch circle? As we’re working on the stretch circle it’s important to focus on:

· Contact/Roundness – Before you even ask your horse to stretch down, you want your horse to be round and accepting the contact. Then, you can feed your reins out slowly, inch by inch. Don’t throw your reins away! This will eliminate your connection, and as Nicole explains, the connection in the stretch circle has a lot to do with how the judge scores the movement.
· Rider Position – The stretch circle is all about balance and connection, and in order for your horse to stay balanced and connected, you need to be balanced! Therefore, it is important to focus on sitting back to keep your ear, shoulder, hip, heel alignment. When you tip forward, you will drive your horse onto the forehand, and you will be more likely to lose your connection.

Remember, the stretch circle is a hard movement for both horse and rider! As Nicole explains, we want our horses to stretch down past the point of their shoulder. However, at first, it can be helpful to just work on stretching down slowly. At first, your horse may only be able to stretch down a few inches! If that is all you can do at first while maintaining the connection, that is okay! As you practice, focus on getting your horse round before the stretch, then feeding your reins out little by little for the stretch, and keeping a correct rider position during the stretch while maintaining the connection. You will get there!

I hope these tips help you and your horse! Make sure you watch the video where Nicole is judging my stretch circles and I go into more detail on how you can improve your stretch circle!

To learn more from Amelia, visit her YouTube channel here.

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