Using a Wall to turn a Horse

Using the Wall to Turn the Horse Exercise (2019)


This exercise helps the horse learn to turn off the outside rein as well as shift his weight to his hindquarters and turn over the inside hind leg. It will also increase the rider’s ability to change aids quickly. Additionally, it is a good shoulder mobilizing exercise as well.


Inside rein: 4th Rein Effect (Indirect Rein in Front of the Withers [shoulder rein])

Outside rein: 2nd Rein Effect (Neck rein)

Inside leg: at the girth

Outside leg: two to four inches back from the girth

Leveling function: weighing the inside and outside stirrups

Whip: use on the flat of the outside shoulder (if necessary)


 A very efficient way to introduce this exercise to the horse is to teach it using a circle because it allows you to approach the fence at the most useful angle by driving him into the fence at a predetermined angle of about 45 degrees (more or less). NOTE: The fence turns the horse so the angle has to be correct. Too big an angle and the horse doesn’t use his hindquarters to turn; too little an angle causes his shoulders to be blocked and he has to swap ends to turn.


Ride the horse on an 8-meter (26 foot) circle at a trot in a positive arc to the left staying about 5-6 feet from the fence, with the whip in your left hand. The top of the circle (where the circle and the fence will be the closest to each other) is where you will begin to have the horse look toward the fence.


Initially, the inside rein (left rein) will be carried in the 4th rein effect position with your left hand in a position angling toward your right hip or shoulder or somewhere in-between. This will help to unload the left shoulder.

Your outside rein (right rein) will be carried in the 2nd rein effect position  and will be used against the horse’s neck to ‘push’ him around the circle as well as determining the degree of bend.


Your inside leg will be positioned at the girth and will touch the horse each time his inside hind leg is just leaving the ground (his hip will be in a ‘down’ position). This will ensure that the horse stays perpendicular so he does not ‘fall in’ and lean on its inside shoulder.

Your outside leg will be positioned about two to four inches back from the girth and will be used as the driving aid.


SPECIAL NOTE: The changing of the aids from left to right (or right to left if riding a circle to the right) described below is not sequential but simultaneous.

Approaching the top of the circle about one horse’s length distance away from the fence (about 5-6 feet or slightly closer), start reversing the arc by having the horse look slightly toward the fence. You also want to lean slightly forward so that you stay with the movement of the horse as it turns and also look toward the fence just as the horse does, the direction of the turn.


Do this by reversing the relative position of your hands with the right rein moving from the neck rein position (2nd rein effect) down to a position in front of the withers and toward your left hip or shoulder (4th rein effect) and your left rein moving from the 4th rein effect and going up high on the horse’s neck and toward the right ear (2nd rein effect). The rein needs to be against the neck in order to turn the hair backwards as you go up the neck with it. This embraces the principle of riding the outside of the horse around the inside of the horse.


At the same time, as you are reversing the arc, step into your left stirrup (which is at the girth) until the horse is committed to the turn. Once the turn is started, release the weight in the stirrup and move your leg back about two to four inches from the girth so that you will now be driving with your left leg. You never stop ‘driving’ in this exercise, so you will not want to slow down to turn.

You will also, at the same time, move your right leg (which was initially about two to four inches back from the girth) to a position at the girth and, as the horse begins to turn, shift your weight from the left stirrup to the right stirrup. This will hold the ‘new’ inside of the horse on the ground longer so that the ‘new’ outside of the horse is free come around and allow him to turn over his right hind leg. As your timing improves, you should be able to step into your right stirrup when the horse’s right hind hip is in the ‘up’ position. This will put the horse’s right hind leg under the mass of his body and act as a base of support. Also move your right shoulder back a little in the direction of the turn. This will keep your upper body and pelvis aligned with the horse’s body throughout the turn. 


Only after the horse has committed himself to the turn should the whip, held in the left hand, be used, if necessary, to accelerate the shoulders or help to take the bend out of the base of the neck.


You want the fence to turn the horse so do not pull him around with the right rein. If you arrive at the fence at the correct 45 degree angle, have him holding an arc to the right and don’t slow down to turn, then impulsion and centrifugal force will turn the horse. After completing the turn the horse should be trotting in a positive arc to the right on an 8-meter (26’) circle.


As you approach the top of the circle at a 45 degree angle, you will have the horse look into the fence using the 4th rein effect and you will simultaneously step into your left stirrup.

As the horse starts to move his head to the right and commits himself to the turn because of the barrier of the fence you will immediately transfer your stirrup weight from the left stirrup into the right stirrup and change your left rein from the 4th rein effect to the 2nd rein effect in order to ‘push’ the horse’s left shoulder to the right. Your right rein will remain in the 4th rein effect position.

Your left leg will now drive the horse around and forward out of the turn.

As this precise but quick procedure is carried out, you will unburden the horse’s hindquarters by leaning slightly forward and looking at where the horse is looking (toward the fence) and as the horse completes the turn you will ‘open’ your right shoulder by moving it backward thus staying in ‘sync’ with his turning motion.

Once the turn is completed you will move forward at the next higher gait than the one which you entered into the turn in, i.e., walk to trot, trot to canter.

The purpose of the exercise is to have the fence turn the horse. You just have to ‘ride’ the turn without pulling the horse around with the inside rein.


If you continue to hold your weight in the left stirrup through the right turn, the rollback will be lower and ‘flatter’ because your weight is acting as a counter-weight and the horse will pull against it and will turn around the right stirrup rather than turning under it.

But if you step into your right stirrup after the horse has committed himself to the turn, then its shoulders will have more elevation and it will turn under the stirrup .

If you pull the horse around with the right rein by using a leading (opening) rein (the 1st rein effect) then you will be creating too much bend in the base of the neck and you will lose a percentage of the elevation in the shoulders and the shoulders will be late in stepping around. As a result, the horse will be turning around the right stirrup rather than under it.

‘Teach at the walk, train at the trot’. It may be helpful to introduce this exercise at the walk. however, the trot is the preferred gait because it allows the horse to get in more trouble and it requires him to ‘use’ himself more.

Once the horse understands your initial explanation and is making 180-degree turns out of the circle, holding the new arc, then you don’t have to use the circle anymore. You can start driving him into the fence from a straight line or from serpentines, weaving back and forth across the arena. At this point, start asking for 240 degree turns as well as asking the horse to turn and leave at the canter.

When you start to  turn into the fence from a straighter position, especially at the canter, the horse may want to ‘test the program’ a little harder and carry you down the fence instead of turning. When this happens, don’t change a thing. Just keep asking until he yields. Now is not the time to spur harder. Let him carry you down the fence as far as it takes for him to ‘find peace’. We want the horse to think in terms of ‘Economy of Motion’. Let him work at it. Have patience!

If the horse jumps out of the turn in the wrong lead, don’t try to fix it. Let him do it as long as it takes for him to ‘find it himself’.