The diagram below provides an important tip for equitation classes that many beginners learn the hard way – by performing the pattern incorrectly in the show ring. As this diagram shows, to correctly execute a figure 8 in an equitation class at a horse show, it is important to not ride the pattern in the form of an infinity sign – with a stretched out X in the middle- but instead, as two perfect circles that overlap in the center.
When your equitation pattern calls for a figure 8, whether at a walk, trot, or center, always complete actual circles and pay attention to your horses bend as you transition from the first circle to the second circle.
Performing an equitation figure 8 at a canter
When you are riding an equitation figure 8 at a lope or a canter, it is essential that you change the lead in the center (the lead is the leg that your horse is leading with in their stride). For advanced riders and well-trained horses this may mean a flying lead change (a lead changed without breaking gait), but for beginner or intermediate levels, it is acceptable to transition your horse to a trot as you finish the first circle, change your horse’s bend, and then pick up the new lead as you enter the second circle.
Performing an equitation figure 8 a trot
When performing an equitation figure 8 at a trot, your task as a rider is a bit simpler. If you are posting the trot you will need to switch diagonals- that is, switch the beat at which you rise from the saddle. Although you don’t change gait when completing the two circles of a figure 8 equitation pattern at a trot, you should take a moment in the center to cue your horse to change the direction that they are bent as they head into the second circle of the pattern, at the same time, if you are posting the trot, you’ll sit for one beat, so you can ride on the correct diagonal in the second circle.
Performing an equitation figure 8 at a walk
Performing this pattern on a walk is the easiest gait. As you end the first circle you’ll have plenty of time to use those center strides to cue your horse to bend a bit as they enter the second circle. Taking a moment to collect your horse and adjust their bend is subtle but can be exactly what a judge is looking for and is often the decider between a close first and second place competitor.
If you are asked to change gait in the center of the figure eight
If your pattern calls for a change of gait as you move from the first circle into the second, you should aim to pick the gate up as your horses shoulder crosses the center point of your figure 8. However, if you know that you may have trouble getting the upward transition precisely when you ask for it, cue your horse a few strides early. Additionally, cueing for the canter as your horse is turning and bending into the new circle will help ensure your horse picks up the correct lead.
Tips on equitation showing
Equitation, remember, is only partly about executing the pattern, it’s also about how you are riding. The judge will look for circles that are very round, equally sized, and a rider who subtly straightens and changes the bend of their horse as they exit the first circle and enter the second.
- Many patterns do not specify an exact size for your circles. Since smaller circles are harder to execute properly, it’s a good idea to make the circles of your figure eight very large. Large, round circles with a well executed change of bend in the center will always be placed by a judge higher than small circles that are oblong or have an awkward transition in the center.
- If your pattern calls for a transition as you exit one circle of the figure eight, pick the new gait up as your horse’s shoulder crosses the center point of the figure.
With a Masters Degree in Psychology and two decades of experience as a horseback rider, breeder, and tack store owner, Tatum has developed a unique approach to coaching adult riders that integrates the physical and emotional aspects of developing as a confident rider.