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Teaching the Turn on the Forehand

Suzanne Sheppard and TiggerWouldn’t you like to be able to have your horse’s hindquarters move as the front end stands still? This is an easy and fun lesson to teach your horse and most of them can learn it in less than two hours. As a movement, it is not only impressive, but a very useful one, particularly in trail classes.

Since horses must be taught to move away from pressure (this is not something they do naturally), we start the lesson by teaching the horse to move his hindquarters to either the left or the right from the reins. This way we have a motivator (the bit) to encourage the horse to seek the correct response. Later on we’ll put a cue spot on the horse where the heel or spur will touch him to signal the turn on the forehand.

Begin by looking at the horse’s left hip (for a turn to the right) while slowly taking the slack out of the left rein. Move your left hand upward and across your chest toward your right shoulder. Add pressure slowly if needed but release and praise the horse as soon as the horse’s hip starts to move forward to the right. In effect, you are disengaging the hip and you’ll feel a distinct step to the right. Don’t worry too much about what the front feet are doing at this time. We are only interested in getting one step at a time at this stage.

When we start top get this single step consistently, we can start to put our leg cue on the movement. Remember here that horses are very sensitive to touch and your cue spot doesn’t have to be exaggerated. Start using your leg cue first and only use your reins if necessary. Eventually, you won’t have to use the reins or look at the hip spot at all, you’ll just use your cue spot with your heel. When you are able to get a full 360 degree turn by using your leg cue only, one step at a time (i.e. releasing pressure from you leg after each step), then you can try leaving your heel on your cue spot for two steps at a time ““ then three steps, etc. until you can apply the cue and the horse will continue to move his hindquarters until you remove your heel from the cue spot.

When you can accomplish this, we can focus on keeping the front feet in an imaginary two foot circle using our reins to restrict movements outside of the circle. We prefer to teach the entire movement on one side of the horse and then go teach the other side. We believe it eliminates confusion for the horse plus they will soften up sooner when we stay on one side longer.

You can also teach this lesson from the ground using your rein or lead rope first to disengage the hip and then using your thumb to apply the “leg cue”.

Enjoy the lesson!

©Two as One, LLC 8/07

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