Now that we have started to develop the walk, we can add things in the horses training and 'strengthen' the things they already know. This is laying a foundation in their work and when its done right, you will always have a place to come back to later on, to build from in the horses training. If the horse gets confused with something new, you can bring them back to something they know, let them relax and get their confidence back and then ask for the new thing again, maybe in a slightly different way that will help the horse to realize, the new movement is similar to this, which you know how to do, but there is a small change in 'how' I would like you to do it.
For example circles. Training involves a LOT of circles. Showing at training level of dressage we started with large circles. As Kat and I moved up to Prelim the circles got smaller, but his balance and way of going was expected to still be there in one aspect, but improved in another. I have also heard from several people showing either Prelim, Intermediate or Advanced, that once they moved up and the circles got smaller, that doing large circles had become more challenging and difficult to them as drivers and for their horses. Why? They started out doing large circles, but since working on smaller circles with less room for error and less time 'In' the circle, it holds your focus and that of the horse, not really allowing us to blow it. If you have a square arena and make a large circle inside the fence and mark the 4 places where the circle meets the rail, similar to using the 12, 3, 6 & 9 on a clock, on a large circle there is more ground to be covered going from 12 to 3, 3 to 6 and so on. Coming in even 10 feet off the rail at those four points, makes the circle and the distance between each point smaller.
When doing circles in any kind of pattern work, at home or in a class at a show, it is always good to look ahead at where you're going and wher you want the horse to go. Using the clock to visualize making your circle, looking ahead '15 minutes' is a way to break down the circle and make it more manageable, be it a large circle or a smaller one. So as you're making you way around from the 12 to the 3, as you move thru where the 1 is, you should be looking to where the 4 is. The 2 finds us looking at 5 and so on. This way when you reach the 3, its not a scramble all of a sudden to find the 6 and set your horse up in that one stride on the 3, to be in the position to make it to the 6.
The problem with making smaller circles and then trying to go back and make larger circles is that as riders and drivers, in the larger circles and especially at the slower gaits, walk and working trot, there is more time, more strides and distance to cover, allowing us more time to drift in or out of our circle making it egg shaped or many things other than round. Then we add in things like dropping our shoulder or hip, leaning, too much or too little rein, leg or any combination of both and our once round circle is anything but...
Personally I can admit to getting a bit lazy, maybe arrogant or whatever you choose to call it, but I look at larger circles and almost blow them off since Kat and I have evolved and improved enough that we don't 'need' to worry about or maybe even focus on doing large circles anymore. This sounds familiar, right? If it doesn't- Once I put him to the cart, we don't need to work in long lines anymore.... Yeah, that was my way of thinking. Was being the opperative word there. Just about every time I think, "Meh, we've done that and moved on. Why bother with 'That' anymore?" that's just about the time I realize there IS some reason to go back and do that work again once in a while. If for no other reason, than just as a refresher for both me and my horse. Usually when I go back for a refresher, that's when I find 'holes' in our work that need to be fixed.
The holes in our work many times turns out to be the path of self discovery that OMG! This is Me screwing things up for my pony or horse, because I'm doing or not doing this and many times sending them mixed signals for what I want or at least what I think I want. Yay Me! Shaking my head... lol It's a good thing that our horses are often very forgiving creatures. Thru these moments of self discovery we learn and grow as riders and drivers. We realize what we are doing and how it affects not just us, but our horse and our scores in the showring if we compete. Sometimes they also add another level of stress because that's one more thing I'm aware of screwing up, that affects my game and now because I'm focusing on that and trying to correct it- somthing else is not being addressed and we begin to spiral. Its ok. I totally get it because I do it too. Many of us do. This is why there is and always will be, something else to work on.