Again, Lil, it doesn't sound to me like you've taken any time to think this through -- you're "just" doing what I have told you to do. Funny enough, I gripe pretty often because people DON'T do as they are told; they go off and do something they made up themselves instead -- something that seems right to them. They hear what I tell them to do but they don't do that; they run my advice or instructions through some kind of internal 'filter' which changes what I said into what they hear. And then they do what they hear.
But you are not doing that; you are really trying to do as you have been told. That's great but there's another part to it too: and that is, you have to think through WHY I might have told you to do a certain thing. WHY would a circle or 'winding down' be preferable to a serpentine in a certain horse's case? What would make you decide to choose to make a circle rather than track a serpentine?
That's the first thing I want you to answer, before we go any farther.
And the second thing is this: you have replied about perfecting the CIRCLE -- as you say, 'perfect little circle.' But Lil, if your horse is stiff, you will not be able to perform a perfect circle, nor will any refinement in your technique, nor any delicacy of your aids, nor even any degree of perfection in your timing be of the slightest avail: because THE HORSE is unable to perform the figure. This is because the figure, however it comes out -- lopsided or egg-shaped or polygonal or perfect, is the product of the degree of suppleness of the horse's body. YOU cannot perform a circle; and YOU cannot cause a circular set of footprints to appear in the footing. It is the horse's spine that puts the footprints into the footing. Only after the footprints are stamped into the footing can you say, 'oh, look how round my circle was' or 'look how yucky and irregular my circle was.' But, mind you well, there was never a circle there, or an irregular circle, BEFORE the horse put it there. The fact that you can have a picture inside your mind of a circle is utterly and totally irrelevant ! A mirage, a delusion, and a constant temptation to shove and pull !
What I indicated, twice again in my posts above and once more here, is that it is your TIMING that needs to be perfected. It is not the figure that needs to be perfected, or that you should aim to perfect; it is your timing, particularly:
1. The timing of the application of your aids -- this tells the horse most clearly what you want it to do.
2. The timing of the RELEASE of your aids -- this is far more important than no. 1, even though no. 1 is very important; no. 2 is much more important because it is the timing of the release that tells the horse that it did what you wanted, and from this and this alone does the horse learn.
No. 1 plus No. 2 create a situation where the horse no longer has to guess what you want, and this will in and of itself take a lot of the steam out of the animal's desire or need to protect itself or get away from you or shorten the ride, by speeding up or only partially performing (performing a mere sketch of) what has been asked.
Lil -- before you write back again -- T-H-I-N-K. -- Dr. Deb