Figures for improving balance: bow tie

I normally train and compete for the hunter ring, but lately I find myself focusing more and more on dressage schooling. I’d like to attend a few competitions and try my hand at first level, so I’ve been developing my horse’s balance and suppleness. I’m lucky in that my horse has natural impulsion – he has a spring in his step and drives off his hind quarter. My challenge is capturing this energy and creating a round outline. Moe likes poke his nose out and get heavy on his forehand, and I need him to accept contact on the bit and lift his back.

Transitions are a great tool for lightening your horse’s forehand, and it’s where I need the most improvement. My coach recently showed me an exercise that combines trot-canter transitions with small circles. It challenges your horse’s suppleness, responsiveness and balance. At C, pick up a left lead canter and ride up the long side of the arena. At A, turn down the centre line and make your way to E. A few strides out from the wall, transition down to the trot, balance up, and turn back towards the centreline. Before you reach the centre line, pick up the left-lead canter again and carry onto to C and then H. Your track should make a bow-tie shape. 


My coach loves these types of exercises because they are easy to practice on your own – you can tell when things are going well and when they’re not. Here’s what to focus on:

  1. Keep your inside leg active when riding the hoops of your bow tie so you get a nice round corner.
  2. As soon as you turn off the centre line and towards E, slow your body down and think “trot” for a nice, calm downward transition.
  3. Sit up nice and tall as you approach E and ask your horse to balance up too. Use your outside aids and ask for a really square turn (think turn on the haunches).
  4. Balance your horse up once again and ask for a canter transition. Try not to the cut the corner on the second hoop of your bow tie.

My horse Moe is quick on the aids, and he has a nice sharp V in the middle on his bow tie. However, his head pops up through the transitions. I’d like him to lower his poll and accept more contact on the bridle:


What kind of exercises do you use you improve your horse’s balance? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.

5 thoughts on “Figures for improving balance: bow tie

  1. Pingback: Figures for improving balance: figure 8 | Dominion Veterinary Labs

  2. an exercise that my coach has been doing with me in lessons is a good tool for when you want to move up to 2nd level (will help with shoulder in and traverse) or you’re extension and corners for first level is when you’re going around your corners don’t let their shoulder touch the wall and rely on the wall so much — when you’re at a show, you won’t have that wall to rely on — and as you approach the corner think of not letting their shoulders go so deep in to the corner, and swinging their hind end in to the corner. Almost like you’re doing a shoulder in around the corner. if that makes sense?! It has really helped my horse who can get very heavy in my hands as well as helping balance him in the extensions across the diagonal for first level. Just a thought as it has helped me! 🙂

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