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Turn Around the Forehand (click on "training tips" above for more)
(as printed in the Herald )
TEACHING your horse to turn on or around the forehand is a useful way of developing his athleticism as well as increasing his manoeuvrability.
Turning around the forehand is when the horse responds to a sideways aid that asks the horse to move his hind legs around the forelegs so the fore legs make a small circle while the hind legs make a larger circle around them. There is a technical difference between turning ‘around’ the forehand and turning ‘on’ the forehand – this is when the horse pivots around one front leg only. Turn on the forehand can be useful for moving your horse around in small space or for opening gates, but turn around the forehand is more beneficial for training.
The turn around the forehand helps to develop the bend of the horse, introduces the lateral movements and helps to flex the inside hind leg. It also loosens the lower back, as the pelvis must tip from side to side to allow the inside hind to step across.
Before you introduce your horse to these movements, make sure that he responds correctly to the ‘over’ command from the ground combined with your hand pressure on his side so that he moves smoothly away in the direction required. The next step is to ask someone to help you by using these aids while you are in the saddle. Once accomplished, you take over the voice aid and gradually the leg aid replaces the hand. Safety is paramount, so make sure your assistant stands in a safe place to avoid the chance of being kicked.
For a turn from the left leg, turn your body slightly to the left, put your left leg very slightly behind the girth and push the horse’s quarters away from your leg. The front legs should move around a small circle - about the size of a dinner plate - while the inside hind steps in front and across the outside hind. The steps should be even, regular and rhythmical.
Be careful to stabilise your horse’s shoulders with the hands. If you pull too much with the inside hand, the horse will fall in on the inside shoulder rather than stepping away from the inside leg.
If your horse moves forward too much after each step, then ride along the side of a wall or fence and ask for the turn from your inside leg. You will end up facing the opposite way along the wall, having moved the quarters round while the wall prevented forward movement.
Initially only ask your horse for one or two steps of the turn and when he accomplishes this correctly, you can gradually ask for more. A good exercise is to ride a square with a quarter turn around the forehand for each corner. This is particularly good as you must use your outside aids to get the horse straight on the side of the square. Once you have mastered this, then you can try a triangle, then a half turn then a full turn of 360 degrees.
The turn around the forehand can be a very useful stepping stone for introducing the horse to leg yielding as it teaches the horse to move away from a unilateral leg aid and can be used in setting up the movement. Later in the horse’s training, turn around the forehand can be combined with shoulder in to create a combined exercise to further promote the development of the hind leg.
The turn around the forehand is a useful movement when you’re out hacking, where you need to move your horse in a small space, or navigate your way around a gate, but it also has huge value as a gymnastic exercise. While it is sometimes used in riding tests, this movement never appears in British Dressage dressage tests.