Guest Blog post # 91: "Roamin Empires - Sad!" by Bill Woods

A new student in her first lesson with me was making all sorts of freeform ring figures. A requested circle she translated as a randomly placed oval. A volte from the track came out like an egg of indeterminate size. When I began to explain about the arena’s dimensions and how the figures related to the dressage letters, she interrupted me, “Oh, I’m not interested in competing.”

But arena figures pre-date showing by centuries. Even if you intend never to get closer to the show ring than the vendors’ tent, correct figures are important. Look at it this way: Pre-determined, precise arena figures constitute a PLAN. Most of the time if your horse deviates from that plan, it’s due to a lack of balance or attention on his part. He bulges out or he falls in. If you have no plan he’s probably doing that anyway, but unless you’re blessed with internal accelerometers, you aren’t nearly as likely to notice.

On the other hand if you fastidiously execute your plan footfall by footfall, you correct his minute escapes in real time. He stays upright, balanced, and aligned—all goals which are much harder to accomplish if you swoop around letting him dictate the lines he follows.

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