PURPOSE OF THE EXERCISE:
Teaching the horse this exercise will mobilize his shoulders as the back end drives the front end around. The horse also learns to turn by moving away from the outside rein and not having to be pulled around with the inside rein.
This exercise is usually called a ‘turn on the hindquarters’ with all four legs stepping throughout the movement.
- The 4th rein effect, the indirect rein of opposition in front of the withers, (sometimes called the ‘flex’ or ‘shoulder’ rein) will be used as the inside rein. It will be positioned so as to have an angle from the bit to your outside hip, although you may have to change the angle somewhat at times and move it more toward your outside shoulder. The idea being that it will place the horse’s head over its inside knee.
- The 2nd rein effect, the neck rein, (sometimes called the ‘brace’ rein) will be used as the outside rein. It will be applied somewhere between the base of the horse’s neck and the middle part of its neck in the direction of the horse’s opposite ear, but without your rein hand crossing the mane. The outside rein will turn the horse and also dictate the degree of bend in the horse’s neck.
- The whole idea of these rein effects is to ride the outside of the horse around the inside of the horse so that you are not pulling the horse around but are driving the horse around. In other words, you are chasing the horse’s shoulders around and not pulling them around with the inside rein which tends to unbalance him by putting more weight on his inside shoulder.
- Your outside leg will be positioned slightly behind the girth and will be used to drive the horse around when decreasing the circle. When the circle is the smallest that the horse can manage and he starts to cross his outside front leg in front of and across his inside front leg then it is in that moment that you will reposition this leg at the girth for its next application.
- Your inside leg stays positioned at the girth.
- Your stirrup aids (stirrup-stepping).i.e., momentarily putting weight into the stirrup in a ‘step & release’ manner will be used to load and unload certain areas to retard or increase the movement of the horse’s shoulders. Your stirrup aids can do this in two ways. If you put weight into your inside stirrup while turning the horse it will keep its inside leg on the ground longer which allows the outside front leg to cross over the inside front leg more easily. One part of the horse slows down and the other part speeds up. If you put weight in your outside stirrup while turning, the horse will use that as a counter-weight and pull against it and it will make the turn ‘flatter’.
- As you decrease the size of the circle you want to keep your upper body balanced over your pelvis in the middle of the saddle; neither leaning to the right nor the left or leaning forward or back as this would cause an imbalance in the horse.
- You also want to keep your shoulders parallel to the horse’s shoulders so that you will be in sync with its body movements. It is more efficient to obtain this parallelism by advancing your outside shoulder as you spiral down in the circle. This is better than bringing your inside shoulder back as by doing that you would more than likely pull on your inside rein thus pulling the horse around the turn. Another advantage of using your outside shoulder is that you will soften the contact on the outside rein so it is not contradicting the action of the inside rein.
- Also, at the tightest point in the circle when the horse starts to cross its outside leg over and in front of its inside leg, you can turn your head in the direction that the horse is turning. This will give him an additional signal in stepping his front end around his back end.
PERFORMING THE EXERCISE AND APPLICATION OF THE AIDS:
- Begin riding an eight-meter (26 feet) circle to the left at a walk. Every full rotation you will decrease the size of the circle by one foot (so the horse stays in balance) until it gets to the point where the horse will begin to step his outside (right) front leg over and across in front of his inside (left) front leg. Then continue to walk the front end of the horse around its back end. The eventual goal is to have the horse walk around a 360 degree circle with its front end while stepping in a small circle with its back end. You do not want the horse to swing his back end out of the circle in the opposite direction from his front end.
- In order to spiral the circle down and move the horse’s front end around the back end you will use the inside (left) rein as the 4th rein effect and squeeze and release it it every time that the horse’s inside front foot is on the ground . You will know this because the shoulder will be in a forward position. This action will help relax him and not oppose your hand.
- Also, during the whole process of spiraling down from a big circle into a small circle you will be applying the outside (right) rein as the 2nd rein effect against the right side of the horse’s neck every time its outside (right) shoulder starts to move forward. Imagine that you are pushing the horse’s shoulders around. Additionally, you could lift up slightly on this rein in order to set the shoulder back so that it stays ‘up’ as it steps to the left.
- Your outside (right) leg will initially be positioned slightly behind the girth and is the driving leg. Use it with a touch and softening motion each time the horse’s outside (right) hip is in an up
- At the moment on the circle when the horse’s outside (right) leg starts to cross over and in front of the inside (left) leg, you will step into your inside (left) stirrup when the horse’s inside hip is in the up position in order to slow the left front leg down. Also, you will now bring your outside (right) leg forward and reposition it at the girth. Use your foot to tap the horse near its elbow as its outside (right) front leg starts to leave the ground (which is when the outside (right) shoulder just starts to move forward). Any other time would be inappropriate. If you wait until the front foot is on the ground (the shoulder would be in a forward position) the horse will have its weight on it and will be unable to pick it up off the ground or if you wait until the horse’s hip is in a full down position the leg will already be in motion so you will have no influence over it (the shoulder will already be swinging forward and the foot will be in the air).
- The squeezing of the inside rein and the touching with your outside foot on the horse’s outside front elbow will happen concurrently.
- As you are walking the circle the horse’s outside hind leg should be tracking up between its shoulders with its inside hind leg tracking behind its inside front leg or 1/2 hoof width to the inside.
- In summary, you will be driving the outside of the horse around the inside of the horse as you are spiraling down until the horse is walking his front end around his hindquarters which are stepping more or less in place.