Correcting Circles

These tips from NRHA Professional Van Luse will help you improve your circle maneuver scores.

Article & photos by Abigail Boatwright

Circles comprise two of your pattern’s seven or eight maneuver scores, but they can effect so much more. Depending on how you execute them, your large, fast and small, slow circles can influence other parts of your pattern, as well.

NRHA Professional and judge Van Luse has coached many non pros who’ve struggled with mastering the maneuver, which demonstrates control, willingness to guide and degree of difficulty in speed. Using these tips, you’ll find it easier to avoid maneuver deductions – or even pick up points – in your circles.

Nail Your Center

Without a doubt, the most important element of the circle maneuver is lining your horse up with the middle marker every time you come through the center, Luse said.

“If you’re having a zero set of circles, you’re not doing anything wrong,” he explained. “You’re not doing anything for a [credit-earning] high degree of difficulty, but you’re still going to get [at least] a zero.

“But,” he added, “if you can’t make it back to the center, then you’re probably going to get a minus-half [maneuver] score. So, you just spent all that time on your circles, but if you miss the center of the arena, you’re going to get discredited for it.”

Look for the con every time you work on circles. When you’re practicing at shows, make sure you have a landmark to orient yourself as you circle around.

At home, Luse works with cones every time he’s in the arena.

“Never do I not look for the cone on a circle, unless someone’s in the way [in practice],” Luse said. “Never do I not hit that center. My horses just think it’s part of the day-to-day routine.”

Read the rest of this December 2020 Reiner article on page 52 or click here.