Turn on the Forehand in Motion

The turn on the forehand in motion is one of the first lateral movements that you can teach your horse. The movement is not found in any dressage test, and as such the exercise is generally undervalued and under utilised.  The turn on the forehand in motion is invaluable in helping develop your horse gymnastically, as it teaches the horse to step under the point of weight with his hind leg and helps supple his hips. The skills involved in the exercise are also good preparation for future movements for both the horse and rider and it helps the trot become rounder.

The turn on the forehand in motion can be performed either in the corner or round a marker.  Unlike the standard turn on forehand, in the turn on the forehand in motion, the front legs also need to move to prescribe a small circle, with the hind legs, prescribing a larger circle. The spine of the horse, which is bent against the direction of movement, should remain parallel to the radius of the circle. This exercise is far more beneficial bio-mechanically to the horse than the standard turn on the forehand, where the inside front leg barely moves, which has little gymnastic value.

A pattern that works really well for teaching this movement either on-line, in-hand or under saddle is setting up a 10m volte in a corner of an arena with gateways or markers at the 4 points of the circle (12, 3, 6 and 9). Ride the 10m volte until you reach the 5m marker on the short side. Change bend and do the turn on the forehand across the corner from that 5m marker on the short side to the 5m marker on the long side, and then walk the 10m volte in the opposite direction, before repeating the turn on the forehand on the opposite rein.

If you have never done a turn on forehand before I suggest that you teach it to your horse on-line first. Obviously you will need some basic on-line communication in place, but assuming this is already established, walk your horse on a volte to the left, asking for a little flexion and stepping under with the inside hind. Stop at the 5m marker and ask your horse to change flexion and bend, so that the horse is flexed to the outside of the school. If you have walked around the volte beside your horse’s shoulder you will need to move in front of your horse’s head before asking for the turn on the forehand. Hold your cavesson line with your right hand fairly closely to the ring so you can use your hand if necessary to help your horse stay flexed against the direction of travel. With your stick in your left hand ask your horse to step to the right, remembering you need to ask his hind legs to step further then the front legs, so that his spine stays parallel to the radius of the circle. You will need to walk sideways, crossing your legs, round the small arc in front of your horse’s nose. Don’t ask for too much to start.  Accept one or two steps initially, reward and then walk back around the volte in the opposite direction. Repeat. The beginning of the movement is always the hardest. Remember you are looking for the inside (inside of the bend) hind leg to step in front and across the outside hind leg, and the inside front leg to step in front and across the outside foreleg.

This move can be really hard for your horse. If your horse is tight in his hips he may only be able to step next to his outside hind leg or even behind it. If one end of the horse moves faster than the other it is a form of crookedness, so you will need to slow down the end that is moving faster. If your horse tries to push forward it is a sign that his outside hind isn’t flexing sufficiently and is pushing too much. Equally if your horse drifts backwards it is probably because he is trying to cross behind the inside hind with his outside hind in an attempt to avoid the weight and flexion required on the inside hind. If your horse inverts, it is because his hips are tight and he is unable to step under with his hind legs, try and increase the bend slightly to ask him to soften. If your horse finds it hard, don’t get harder. Slow it down and accept one step at a time.

Once your horse is comfortable doing the movement in-hand you can try performing the turn on the forehand in movement under saddle.

Remember the outside of the movement is the outside of the bend of the horse, not the outside of the school. At the 5m market change the bend of your horse, so your horse is flexed to the outside of the school. Your outside hip (old inside) should come forward and tilt fractionally as you are taking your weight onto the outside seat bone in the direction of tra vel, and your inside hip should move back. However your inside leg needs to remain at the girth to ask the horse’s inside hind leg to move forward and across and your outside calf needs to be back behind the girth to prevent the horse’s hind quarters from escaping. Your outside rein should frame the horse’s outside shoulder. Your inside rein does very little. Ask the horse to start by using your inside calf so that he moves his inside hind leg forward a half step and then ask him to step across as the hind leg is in the air. You can help flex the outside leg by half halting or stirrup stepping into that leg whilst the outside hind on the ground. You can also ask the horse’s shoulders to move across with a nudge from your inside knee as the inside foreleg is in the air. In principal, although this all sounds horribly complex, and both the rider and the horse can find it really difficult to do initially it is worth pursuing.  The exercise teaches us how to control all of our horses feet individually and as I mentioned before has superb gymnastic benefits for our horse. Once we have mastered the movement it should be a delight and easy to ride on just an adjustment of our pelvis and weight.