Western Dressage Exercise – Circle Square


Last weekend, I had the good fortune to absorb Dr. Kerry Ridgway’s sage advice at the “Optimizing Straightness, Balance, and Performance Symposium” here in California. Dr. Ridgway presented over two decades’ worth of biomechanical insights from studying performance horses. Hands-down, the most common problem he encounters is how horses’ natural crookedness affects their performance. Especially when carrying a rider, this natural crookedness creates gait deficiencies, weakness, and hindrances to performance.

Well ridden circles are the best way to help fix a horse’s asymmetry, but they also bring the risk of leading to compromises. When asked to ride a circle, the crooked horse develops sore muscles, bracing patterns, shorter strides, and stiffness. So, how then should we proceed? This is where I like to recommend my Circle-Square Exercise. Not only does this improve your horse’s symmetry without riding around in endless circles, but it also requires constant adjustment and skillfulness from the rider.

This is a simple exercise, but let me recommend that you set up cones to be SURE that your square is actually… well, square. We tend to fool ourselves otherwise. Set up a cone at each corner of a 20-meter square. Let’s get started. This exercise can be ridden in all three gaits.



  1. Begin in working jog, traveling left.
  2. Ride one 20-meter circle.
  3. Then immediately ride a 20-meter square.
  4. Ride your initial circle again.

Continue repeating.

Variations: First, confirm this pattern in jog (both posting and sitting) and lope in each direction. Then, try altering the size of each circle/square. Then, try riding your circle at a jog, followed by a square at a lope.

Accurate geometry is the first priority of this exercise, followed closely by your horse bending properly. Assess this as you go, being sure not to forget that each corner of your square should be ridden like a quarter of an 8-meter circle — your horse should show clear lateral spinal flexion with his inside hind leg stepping under his mass.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012


One Response to “Western Dressage Exercise – Circle Square

  • I’ll be attending the Ridgway hosted clinic in Colombus, S.C. next week with clinician Gabriele Rachen Schoneich from Germany on the same subject of “the crooked horse”. Kerry and I have done work together using my EQUI Mapping pressure map saddle fit evaluation system studying the subject of treeless riding.