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    Riding figures - Horse Pilot

    Riding figures: an equestrian art to be mastered

    Riding figures are precise lines drawn in a riding arena or arena, according to letters that serve as reference points. Essential elements of classical equitation, they are designed to develop the horse's suppleness and maneuverability.

    Often associated with dressage, figures are important in all equestrian disciplines, such as show jumping.

    Mastering these figures is essential for independent, elegant riding. Taught from the very first gallops, they are also used to ride safely in a covered arena or arena during a group riding lesson.

    Basic figures for beginners in dressage

    The circle, the diagonal and the straight line are the basic figures for riding enthusiasts. They develop the horse's balance, suppleness and impulsion. Although simple, they teach beginners to coordinate their aids with precision.

    The circle: a simple figure to work on the horse's balance

    The circle initiates subtle communication between rider and mount. The rider curves the horse's silhouette with the opening rein. Then he draws circles 10 to 20 meters in diameter. These loops help the horse develop suppleness and obedience.

    The diagonal: an exercise to develop suppleness and impulsion

    The diagonal consists of an oblique line drawn from one corner of the arena to the opposite corner, passing through the middle. This dressage exercise involves a change of hand to ask the horse to change feet. The horse becomes more flexible as it has to bend its body to follow the trajectory, and its muscular strength is strengthened.

    The straight line: an essential exercise to work on the horse's straightness

    The straight line, also known as the doubler, ensures that the horse is straight on its trajectory. This figure is performed across the width or length of the arena. It involves following a trajectory parallel to the starting track, with or without changing hands. This figure requires precise communication with the rider.

    Advanced figures to perfect technique

    Passing the galops, the federal exams, requires experienced riders to refine their riding skills with more complex patterns. These equestrian techniques are acquired through regularity.

    The change of hand: a figure for smoothly changing direction

    The change of hand is a modification of the rider's direction of rotation in the riding arena. The horse and rider pair walk down the track left-handed when the rider's left hand is inside the arena. For a female rider, the opposite is true. This figure is an elegant transition requiring subtle coordination of the aids.

    The counter change of hand: a more complex figure for working the horse's bend

    The counter change of hand begins as a diagonal, then obliquely to the opposite wall. It requires the horse to bend more sharply. This figure develops the horse's flexibility and agility, and strengthens its neck muscles. It requires perfect control of the aids to maintain the elegance and balance of the steed.

    The serpentine: an S-shaped figure to improve coordination and flexibility

    The serpentine links at least 3 half-volts to the right and left, following the centerline of the arena. The rider starts from one side to reach the opposite track. Each half-circle requires perfect coordination to be the same size. The number of loops is even and may require changing hands.

    The most common figures used in competition

    Riding competitions demand precision in movement and handling. Horses and ponies must respond without resistance to the rider's discreet indications. Tracks include changes of direction, different gaits and possibly a change of hand.

    The half-circle at walk: a compulsory figure to assess the rider's precision

    The slow movements of the walk often make the exercises harder on the muscles. The rider leaves the arena, performs a half-volte 10 meters in diameter, then finishes with a diagonal. In an inverted half-volte, the duo start with the diagonal and finish with the semicircle. The layout resembles an ice-cream cone.

    The half-circle in canter: a dynamic figure that highlights the horse's balance

    The layout of the half-circle is identical in walk and canter. This figure is used to judge transitions between trot and canter with the shoulder in. It can also be used in a canter with the wrong foot. Both situations require perfect balance and rhythmic control.

    The volte: a circular figure requiring finesse and lightness in the aids

    The volte is a circle that starts from the track and returns to it. The difference with a circle is that a circle is at least 10 meters in diameter, whereas the volte is between 6 and 10 meters. In this figure, the horse must bend around the curve. Perfect harmony between rider and horse is essential to maintain balance.

    The most spectacular figures at high level

    The progression ladder in dressage consists of three phases: building the foundations, developing impulsion and perfecting balance. Figures such as the piaffe, passage and pirouette are covered in this last phase.

    The piaffer: a stop-on-the-spot figure with cadenced movements

    The piaffer is a diagonalized trot on the spot, in which the horse executes movements with well-marked suspension times. It's an artificial gait that demonstrates the horse's power, impulsion and flexibility. This riding exercise is often a transition to the passage.

    Passage: a figure in which the horse moves forward with wide, raised strides

    The horse performs a projected trot, very slowly, with very pronounced periods of suspension. The coordination of the horse and rider must be perfect to achieve relaxation and a supple, energetic execution.

    The pirouette: a rotational figure on the hind leg, demonstrating the horse's suppleness and agility

    The horse makes a complete turn around his hips, curved in the direction followed. The hindlegs remain in place, but mobile. Like an equestrian dance, the horse performs the pirouette at a walk, canter or even piaffe. It then returns to its original direction of travel.

    Mistakes to avoid when executing figures

    The correct use of natural aids and trim, at the right moment, ensures that the rider presents effective equestrian techniques. This is essential to develop harmony in the rider-horse pair and to get the horse to listen without resistance.

    Misuse of aids: how to coordinate hands, legs and body weight properly

    The hands are firm. They guide with constant, gentle contact with the horse's mouth. Legs resist or give way. They give impetus or direct the bend. A stable stance, with an immobile upper body, orchestrates these movements. The accuracy of this coordination of aids gives the rider a fine connection with his horse. It promotes mutual understanding.

    Lack of balance: how to work on your position to help the horse in complex figures

    The weight of the rider-horse pair must be balanced between the hind legs and the front legs, depending on the trick to be performed. The load is light on the forehand, while the hindhand remains easily mobile. A stable rider posture helps communication with the horse. It accompanies the horse's movement, without adding weight that could unbalance him.

    Timing problems: how to anticipate and adjust requests to ensure smooth execution of figures

    The rider looks where he's going. He adapts his position smoothly to warn the horse of a change of pace or direction. Riding a horse requires anticipation of transitions and sequences at all times. This ensures harmony with the horse and smooth transitions between gaits and figures.

    Tips for successful riding figures

    Here are a few practical tips to help you achieve perfection in your riding figures.

    Work regularly with a qualified instructor to correct mistakes and make progress

    An equestrian instructor knows horses. They know how to ride, and how to train and improve. Qualified instructors are therefore the best asset for riders looking to learn and progress. They teach activities adapted to beginners and advanced riders. Riding courses with a private riding instructor are also a solution for the most assiduous amateur.

    Use adapted muscle-strengthening exercises to improve your horse's performance

    Riding is a very complete sport. Strengthening your horse's muscles improves his overall physical condition, particularly his endurance and suppleness. The basis of the work is muscular relaxation, with awareness during warm-up, preservation of relaxation during the session, and active recovery at the end of the session. Various activities such as rides on varied terrain or a cross-country course give the horse a different kind of muscle tone.

    Familiarize yourself with competition rules and codes to avoid penalties

    The FFE (Fédération Française d'Équitation) publishes up-to-date rules and scoring systems online for competitions in the various equestrian disciplines. You'll also find federal guides explaining what you need to know according to your riding level. For example, the first figures are explained with clear diagrams in the Galop 2 federal guide.

    Mastering riding school figures, an asset for any ambitious rider

    Mastering the basic figures is essential for any beginner to gain autonomy when riding in a riding school. But that's not all. Western riding, or equestrian sports such as horse-ball or pony-games, also require knowledge of these basics.

    As for the more complex figures, they offer the experienced rider an inexhaustible source of learning and accomplishment. Their perfect mastery guarantees performances worthy of majestic equestrian dances to be presented at top-level equestrian competitions.

    So train, perfect and let yourself be carried away by the elegance of riding figures.

    Clothing for riding at the riding school