Good geometry isn’t just for dressage…..
I have to admit – I love setting out cones for both lessons and my own training sessions! They can be of enormous benefit for a number of reasons, lets explore why.
We all love seeing the comment on our test of “well ridden” or “good geometry” and there are certainly some bonus points available if we get it right! Setting cones out on your arena can really help to provide some “landmarks” for you to understand where you should be aiming for within the test elements. Unfortunately the arena letters don’t mark out clearly our 20 meter, 15 meter and 10 meter circles, unless you know a few key things!
First, we need to understand the measurements of the arena and the relationship of where the letter markers are. A “full court” arena is 20m wide x 60m long (40m long for the short court”.) The first letter from each corner on the long side is 6m, then 12m between subsequent letters. A and C are both on the center line, so 10m from the corners on the short side. When we understand the arena measurements, we can now identify where we should be crossing the center line for elements such as 20m circles and serpentines. The arena diagram below shows some of the common lines ridden in tests along with the placement of the arena letters.
When setting additional cones on the arena, I will set 10m cones (use a different color or style) or I might set centerline “gates” for serpentines (2 cones to be ridden between) and/or a cone gate at “x”. It can also be helpful to identify the correct location of the quarterline (5m in from the corners on the short sides).
Now that’s all fun and games, but why is it even important to ride accurate geometry, specially if you don’t compete? It all comes down to the devil in the detail when training for straightness and balance – you can’t have a straight horse if it isn’t balanced, and balance also helps create relaxation! It all ties in but if you are not able to ride accurately, how do you identify the imbalances in the horse?
I’m sure we have all felt that our horses will go easier on a circle one way rather than the other (or even turn better one way or the other) – a bit like being right or left handed. This is simply how the horse has developed. One way the horse will tend to drift out and make our circle bigger, the other way the horse will fall in and make our circle smaller, and quite often speed up!. So the horse is telling us which way they are stiff and which way they are “hollow” and hence where they prefer to carry their weight.
Why is it important to address this imbalance? The foundation of dressage – long term soundness! If the horse continues to overload one pair of legs and doesn’t share the load equally on all four, they are more prone to breakdown and soundness issues. Hence why balance and straightness is so important.
By riding accurate geometry we are better able to identify the horses imbalances and so better equipped to address it. This is where the benefit of dressage training plays an important role in any discipline – even trail riding!
I hope this has provided an insight as to why correct arena geometry isn’t just for dressage and test scores! Enjoy setting up and playing with cone placements for different exercises to create a balanced, relaxed, happy horse.
Cheers, and happy riding!