Figure eights are the combination of circles and a serpentine. A proper figure eight should be two even circles connected through the middle with a small straight line to change the bend. There are numerous ways to scale this pattern which is why I frequently use it in lessons.
The easiest way to do a figure eight is two circles in opposite directions. Have the horse leader steer the horse through a large circle to the left, then move immediately into a circle to the right. Depending on the rider’s balance, the turns can be sharp or wide. A rider who struggles with balance may need wide, even turns. A rider who needs to be brought to attention and has good balance can benefit from a sharp turn that engages the core.
Figure eights can be more difficult by changing the size and the transition. Use objects as a visual aid, like setting up a pole the rider needs to cross over before changing directions. Or use small cones or poles around the circle for a rider to steer over or around. Smaller figure eights are more difficult because the transition happens sooner and the bend requires more balance.
I use figure eights to help my riders with pattern recognition. Typically, I set up a pole in the center as the cue to change direction. I explain the pattern and ask for them to repeat it back (if verbal) or a sign of understanding (looking at me, head nod, quiet hands, etc.). The repetition of the pattern and the visual cues help the rider know what comes next. The simplicity of the pattern is a good start to remembering complicated next steps.
Do you use figure eights in your lessons? Let me know how below!