This is a favourite warm-up routine for many riders…
Start the ride with this exercise, and it’s great for so many reasons that you will surely see the benefit from in your horse! It suits many horses for many goals. But just remember, you can use it during the middle of the ride as well, that said you could tweak this routine and make it your whole ride.
This warm-up/ exercise routine is suitable for:
  • The more educated horse, with some adjustments
  • The horse that is still trying to find a good tempo and rhythm
  • Sluggish to start horse
  • Young horses
  • Inexperienced older horses
  • Runaway to start horse
  • The imbalanced horse
  • The horse working on basic gaits and transitions
Can also be used for:
  • Young riders
  • Inexperienced riders
  • The rider who is working on basic aids
  • The rider who is finding a good rhythm and tempo
  • Riders who is nervous of the runaway or unpredictable horse
  • A rider who needs some structure in the warm-up
The figure itself is quite simple, but simple may not always be easy. In essence, you do four 20-meter circles as you make your way around the ring once.
Begin at C (Circle #1). If on the left rein, start at trot and do a 20-metre circle at C. Then I’ll navigate the corner, and head up the rail to E.
Then go into a new 20-metre circle at E and back to the rail, the corner, and head to A.
Start a new circle at A. Be sure to complete that circle, go to the corner, head for B.
This first round ends with a final circle at B. Go back to the track and head to A again.
You can use this figure at the walk for 8 to 12 minutes or so before commencing the trot. Once in trot, you can work on developing a strong but steady trot through the whole figure.
You can also to these routines in canter, which as you would expect presents a variety of new and exciting challenges as you navigate turns and straight lines.
Perform this approximately several times, and at each gait.


Its worthwhile paying attention to the following:
  • Circle Size and Placement
  • It does not have to be exact 20-meter circles if you are not practicing for dressage tests. Having said that it is wise to pick a circle size that fits your riding space and be consistent all the way around the ring. Make it even on both sides – avoid falling in or drifting out.


This figure alternates between mild bends on the circles, and straightness on the rails. This helps teach you and your horse to straighten after a bend and bend after being straight.
The straight lines give your horse a chance to unwind a bit out of the circles, reach forward and energize, and prepare for the next corner or turn. If your horse has a tendency to ride with his shoulders close to the rail, you might want to do a shoulder fore as you travel up the straight lines.


Flexion is a very basic component of suppleness over the top line. You should always bear in mind and be working on getting your horse to look in the direction of his movement. You don’t even have to pretzel into a bend on these circles because of their large size.
When performed correctly you should be able to see the corner of your horse’s inside eye in the turns. This helps your horse release the tension especially in the jaw and neck, as well as position him for better balance through a turn.


As mentioned, previous in this article, this exercise focuses on the study of balance. Your horse might fall into the circle. He might drift out. He might fall to the forehand on the straight lines. He might speed up and slow down. He might turn his neck in too much or have a crooked head position.


This is routine is a less inspired one and conversely, for the runaways. It’s always preferable to find your horse’s ideal tempo and stick to it.
When performing the routine make sure it is energetic enough to allow him to use his hindquarters in such a way that he will have better balance in the turns and circles. It is probably a good idea to increase the energy in the circles – it is commonplace for many horses to slow down or disengage when they head into a turn.
Having said that, if your horse just goes continues to pick up the pace, circles are a great natural vehicle to help you regulate that leg speed and balance the horse better to the hind end. It is prudent to use plenty of half-halts before, through and after each circle and in the corners.