Demi Voltes

Here’s a nice little warm up exercise for you.

Trot down the long side, and ride a half circle just before the corner. Incline gently back to the track, making sure you’ve changed the bend prior to reaching the track at approximately E (or B if you’re on the other long side). As you reach the end of the long side (where you originally started) ride another demi volte of a similar size. See my rough sketch below for clarification.

Initially, you can ride the demi voltes with fifteen metre half circles, and then decrease it to ten metre demi voltes. This obviously requires more suppleness and better balance from the horse.

This exercise is very useful for ascertaining your stiffer rein, because the half circles are in quick succession. Ensure that with the fifteen metre demi voltes neither one crosses the far three quarter line. In ten metre demi voltes you shouldn’t cross the centre line.

A demi volte is surprisingly tricky to ride accurately because it’s very easy to let the horse stay in the bend they had on the circle as you drift back to the track, in a semi shoulder in position. Check you are riding a half circle to the midway point and then a straighten the horse to ride the line to the track before asking for the new bend as you approach the track. If the horse is over bending at the shoulder, they are harder to straighten as you come out of the half circle, so focus on the bend through their barrel and not overusing the inside rein to unbalance them. Think less is more and you’ll soon find that the exercise flows more easily.

If one rein is particularly stiff, you can ride one and a half circles before inclining back to the track. Then spend some time on the stiffer rein working various school movements to help improve their suppleness.

This exercise requires good balance from the horse because there are several changes of bend, and you’re looking for smooth transitions between the circles and straight lines. As the circles are fairly small it is a good way of engaging their inside hindleg.

You can increase the difficulty in this exercise by riding the demi voltes in canter, executing a change of lead either through trot or a simple change (or if you’re very snazzy, a flying change) as you return to the track.

To check that you are riding a straight line back to the track you can place tramlines to help guide your eye. You can also add in a walk transition after the half circle. By engaging the inside hind on the half circle you should be able to ride a really active downwards transition, and the transition will show up any wobbliness.

Give it a go; I’ve used it both as a warm up exercise in lessons, as a main exercise to improve rider feel and horse suppleness , and as a warming down exercise so that the rider can feel the difference in the way their horse moves on the demi voltes when they are off the forehand and on the aids.

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