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Turnaround Exercises: On the fence

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - August 15th, 2013 - More with Les

49th in a series
Last issue, Les put us to work with basic exercises of the turnaround. Now we’ll add a couple new ones.

Here’s something to try after you’ve been getting the crossover steps for a couple of weeks. Once you’re getting those three steps or four steps, you’re basically doing half a turn. So here’s a way to help the horse finish off the turn. Set yourself up just like you did for the last exercise, but this time what we’re going to do is start by turning your horse away from the fence and then let the fence finish the turn. But your horse is about six or more feet long, so how is that horse going to go through that little three-foot hole? Well, he’ll have to squat down behind to draw down, and he’ll have to be bent. So start turning away from the fence, get your first three steps, keep your bend and keep driving your horse. The fence will take care of the next three steps. You can do this in a corner too, and it’s a really good trick.

Round and Round and Round She Goes…
How many turns can I make once my horse is starting to get it? If there is no interference, that is, he’s mechanically correct in his leg placement – five times, 10 times, what would it hurt? As long as there is no stress, go ahead and keep going. Let the horse get used to and become comfortable with the movement. If there is stress, two is too many; you need to stop and figure it out. Why would there be stress? Three reasons: 1) you don’t have the sweet spot in terms of the amount of bend where his shoulders will clear; 2) you’re not riding him up into the turn but instead you’re trying to pull him back – consequently he hits himself; and, of course, 3) you’ve let him get rigid and lift his neck. That’s it.

The horse’s neck must be soft both laterally and vertically before you start.
The horse should plant his inside hind foot – it bears the weight.
The outside hind leg pushes, providing the power.
The front legs are like a wheel and control direction.
The shoulders are like a wagon axis, they should have just enough tilt in the
direction of the turn to allow the outside front leg to reach across the inside one.

Sit deep in the saddle and ride the back of the horse up to the front.
Keep your hands apart – no neck rein.
Start in a small circle, using both legs actively.
Ask your horse for a step or two, then release and go back to your circle.
Push with your legs instead of pulling with your hands.
If you feel backward motion, you know you’re pulling too hard.
Reward the thought; when you feel the slightest try, give him the benefit of
the doubt and reward him.
Be consistent.
The first few steps will dictate the quality of the spin, if they are bad, don’t
continue. You don’t want your horse to learn to do a bad spin, hold out for a
better one.
Speed comes later.

Always start from the front; get the neck right, followed by the shoulders, ribs,
and hindquarters.
Make sure the horse does not twist in the poll.
The spine will also twist and the horse’s weight will shift to the outside hind.
foot and throw off the balance of the spin.
Allow the horse to find his own way and be comfortable.
It’s all in the neck! Neck resistance is a speed limit.

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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