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The turn: Here’s how you start

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - June 20th, 2013 - More with Les

45th in a series
After reviewing fundamentals of spins in the last issue, we’re ready to start the turn-around.

So how do we start to teach the turnaround? We start by walking in a circle about 10 feet in diameter. You want to use your circle to establish the correct bend, so bring your circle down to where your horse’s spine is bent evenly and you can just see the corner of the horse’s eye.

Now let’s stop here and think about the difference between this forward circle and the turnaround. In the turnaround, we will want to maintain the same bend and the same cadence (or rhythm), at least at this level. We want the front legs to keep moving, we want the outside back leg to keep moving, but we just want to slow down, or even stop, the forward movement of the inside hind leg. And to do that you’ll just want to check a little with your outside rein while you keep driving with your legs, and making sure the inside rein maintains the bend. As I’ll describe, when I first start to ask the horse to step across, I’ll open up my inside leg to help him understand what I want, but as he gets better at it, there are a lot of times I will ride into the turn with both legs on him.

When you’re ready to turn (or, at least, to ask for a crossover step or two), you’ll start in your circle and then ask your horse to spiral down by keeping the bend with the inside rein, drawing (pulling back) a little with the outside rein, pushing with the outside leg and opening up the inside leg. We’re loading, by restricting him with the rein and pushing with the leg, and then unloading, by taking off the inside leg and showing him that that’s where we want the energy to go. As soon as you feel one crossover step, release any pressure on your outside rein, change legs, and let him walk forward into the circle, or lateral flexion, that we started with. You want to try to maintain your bend the whole time by with just a light touch when you need it, with your inside rein.

Sounds simple, right? Well, let’s go back and talk about each element because I want you to understand why they’re important and how they work together. Plus, I want you to be able to visualize what you are looking for before you try it on your horse. First, the bend is critical. As you ask for the crossover step, you need to make sure that you’re not letting the head get out of position. If you lose any softness in his head and neck, abort the turn and go back to getting that component correct. The horse’s bend is just critical to the turnaround. Also, if the horse is leaning on your inside rein at all, don’t attempt any crossover steps. You can actually create this problem yourself if you don’t use your outside leg all the way back in the hip position. Applying pressure in the front or middle positions will make the horse think you want him to arc around that leg – and he’ll want to bend the wrong way!

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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