Training Exercise: Circles inside of circles- Episode 17

In this video I share with you an exercise that I use to increase my horses strength, balance and understanding of aids.
I call it ‘circles inside of circles’ and it involves a lot of, you guessed it, circles.
In the video I show how I set up cones as points to ride to as well as how I set up ‘gates’ or sets of cones to ride through. Being specific with my cues and exactly where I want to be makes me more clear. When the rider is more clear the horse is able to become more accurate.
The smaller 10 meter circles are a challenge for Gabby right now. She is four and lacks the strength and training to do many of them. Willow is eight and is much stronger. You can see in the video how easily Willow can stay balanced when loping the 10 meter circle.
As I prepare for the Western Dressage World show in a little over a month, I will begin to add some more focused riding times to my routines. I will still trail ride and have easy days but some days will be more precise.
I find exercises like this one to be beneficial in a different way than riding the full western dressage test. Often when riding a test there are many quick transitions. While this is good for testing it is more of a challenge than establishing and maintaining something like a circle.
Once the horses improve and can easily do these circles, then I know they will do well with the test movements.


  1. Kathy Douglas on July 21, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Stacy,
    I absolutely love all of your podcasts, videos and new steering training audio! My question relates to saddle fitting. I have a 7 year old quarter horse that I started when I got him as a 3 year old. I thought I could just use my crates quarter horse tree saddle on him like I do on my other 3 quarter horses. But I was wrong and discovered my saddle was really making his back sore. I searched and searched for a solution, trying everything anyone was suggesting, I just wanted something to work. I ended up taking him to a place for saddle fitting and they said he would fit in a wide crates tree so I had a new saddle made. 3 months later I finally got my new saddle and still something didn’t feel right. The saddle would always slip to the left when I was walking bending circles to the right. So now I was trying different pads to make the saddle fit right. Sigh. I finally was introduced to a team equine pad that had a shoulder relief type shim (like a donut hole). That seemed to help. His back was not getting as sore. But still my saddle was slipping left when bending to the right. Then I found out about the shoulder relief cinches. I purchased one of those and that really helped with the slipping. So now I have a set up that kinda works but I don’t feel the saddle is the best fit I can get for him. I don’t want him to be uncomfortable. There has been times he totally scoots away from me when I am trying to put the saddle on. I know it’s still making him sore. He has very wide shoulders, not very high withers and a short back. I was wondering about your saddles? I know you sell them on the East coast and I am in Washington state —West coast. Makes it kinda hard to try out a saddle. Do you have any suggestions??

    • Stacy Westfall on July 27, 2020 at 7:51 pm

      I would suggest that you call Trish at Stage Coach West. 800-648-1121 ( She is awesome to talk to and knows tons of saddles, brands, pads, etc.

      I can’t promise she will have the answer but she will have some information that she will share (for free!!)

      I have occasionally see horses with these symptoms that benefited from chiropractic. Also consider making a video of how he steps up under himself with his inside hind leg when turning left vs right. See if you can see a difference in how he is stepping. Sometimes ‘something’ happens and they start traveling different one way…then it becomes a habit…then ‘normal’ isn’t normal until they have some physical therapy (which is what good riding can be).

      Also…for more information, maybe try an English saddle on him and see if you still feel the saddle twist on his back. The nice thing about English saddles is that they are smaller and different enough that sometimes you can get more info.
      Plus…keep trying different saddles when you see them!
      Lol…some homework…

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