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    I, too, tried the circling technique with my seven year old Arab gelding,
Elliot.  It was the first ride in months that we took alone, and I decided that
it was a great time to try circling.  I did something similar when I first
started trailriding him (the second time I was on his back), when I insisted
that he stand still when my friend went trotting past us.  I used circling
extensively, but as Elliot got more and more solid, I got less and less
demanding, and it showed.  So anyway, we went out on a beautiful day, and
Elliot stunned me with his level-headedness and <gasp> NEVER spooked at
ANYTHING.  We usually start off at a walk, and Elliot is happy to be out,
then starts thinking about trotting--you can see it in his ears--so he tries
it after the first minute or so.  I normally pull him back to a walk.  But
on this ride, I circled instead, and let him trot his heart out while I tried
to get our circles nice and round and get him bending around my leg better.
He thought that was really cool, because I'd normally just pull him back,
so we trotted profusely until he was bored with circles.  Then we walked
awhile, and after going along a road for awhile, I decided to go try trotting
through a big hayfield.  Elliot thought this was GREAT (he was very
enthusiastic the whole time) and did his standard speed-up-until-she-does-
anything-that-unbalances-me-into-a-canter thing.  Again, I normally just
pull back and think really hard about my posting rhythm, checking that I
don't speed up at all.  But I let him canter, and he was, once again,
enthusiastic.  The bulk of the cantering circles was on a moderate hillside.  I
go through longing phases every so often, where I'm really sure that all Elliot
needs is a little longing, and then he'll be balanced, so I go out and get
the sidereins, and we longe.  He's great, then he gets to a canter and on our
three-degree or so inclined riding arena he tears up the incline and slows
down a little going down the hill, speeds up going parallel to the hill,
tears up it, and so on.  This is what we did in the hayfield, and we both
found it very invigorating.  Elliot's enthusiasm was still intact.  Then he
got tired, as we live in Michigan and he's not in great shape because
I can ride him at MOST three times a week--Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when
I come home from college, and it's more often once or twice.  We usually canter
maybe once through a field on our normal rides, and this was a lot of
cantering, so he started to get tired after awhile, and I was able to make
more and more progress through the field at a trot, but I could still see him
thinking every now and then, "Okay, I'll trying cantering NOW." like maybe I
wouldn't be paying attention or something.  So he got tired by the time we
went through the hayfield.  It's about a quarter of a mile long and it took
us ten or fifteen minutes to get through at a trot.  The tiredness puzzled him,
because I don't think he's ever been worn out in the three years I've had
him.  So we walked for awhile.
    This was when the good stuff started, when I started thinking, wow, my
horse is smart.  We were going along a truck path by this time, at a walk,
when Elliot decided it was time to have another go at this speeding up thing
("Maybe she's forgotten by now," he thought craftily, with enthusiasm.)
So he trotted.  We circled.  He cantered one circle, then broke himself to a
trot, and seemed surprised when I wouldn't let him go straight.  I'm pretty
sure that his logic was that previously we had moved on when he shifted down
one gait, so by cantering, *maybe* I'd forget that the desired gait was a
walk.  But it didn't work, so we went on when he saw it wasn't working.  It
only took two circles (compared to our fifty or so cantering circles, I
think he was learning pretty fast by this time...)  But Elliot still, in spite
of being very tired, considered himself invincible and enthusiastic, and
wanted to trot up a hill.  So he tried once more, and I did a circle.  He
IMMEDIATELY broke to a walk, walked the circle, and broke back into a trot when
we reached the point where we had started from and he was once again pointing
forward, so I circled him again, he immediately broke to a walk, and then
trotted again once we were back on the path.  I stopped him and laughed
for a while, and then we cantered up the hill.  It was all very therapeutic
(stress from classes being what they are--I can't even imagine "the outside"
world...) and gave me a new appreciation for my horse's intelligence and, of
course, enthusiasm.

Sarah & Elliot, 25 competitive miles and 75 miles of circles

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