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More on turnarounds: Start at neck

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - August 21st, 2014 - More with Les

73rd in a series
After Les outlined the points to concentrate on last issue, now we’ll get to work.

In this session, we’re going to go back to turnarounds. As always, the most important part is the neck: start at the front and work your way back. With the body controls that you have developed in your exercises, you have the ability to fix almost any problem. Moreover, remember, if you’re having trouble in the turnaround, don’t fix the maneuver, stop the maneuver and fix the problem.

Now up until this point you’ve been doing some real relaxed turnarounds while your horse learned what you wanted and where to put his feet. Now we’re going to try a few different things, and each will have a little different effect on your turns. First, every once in a while I want you to do a really collected turn, where you’re using both your legs to kick the horse’s back legs right up under his front and really making him bend in the middle and drop his head low. Once you have him collected you can release with your inside leg, or both for that matter, depending on the response you’re getting from him. While you’re doing this, you want to feel like you can put his head almost anywhere you want it and have him at any level of collection, while still maintaining the same cadence. Both of you will build confidence from this.

So many times, as people learn to turn their horses around, their main concern is how to stabilize the pivot foot. What you need to realize is that we are training from the front to the back. Get the front correct, and the back will follow. If at this stage in the game the horse is crossing over nicely in front but is still moving his back end a little, I’m okay, I don’t worry, even if it lasts a few months. I don’t ever look down for that pivot foot, and I don’t worry about it. The pivot foot happens if you ride forward into your turns. The old-timers used to tell me to keep forward motion in my spins, and I thought, “Now they want a pivot foot and forward motion, so the horse has to get longer and longer.” I just didn’t get it. What they meant was that with the correct bend, you’re getting forward motion; it’s just around a corner into the spin!

So how do you stabilize that back end, if it’s really moving around? You have tools. You can use your outside leg to stabilize the hip, but be careful because using your outside leg or spur can make your horse’s ribcage invert! I call it D.R.A.T. – Dreaded Reverse Arc Tendency. It’s deadly in a turn: head goes to the outside, and suddenly all the mechanics go wrong! So you can use a little leg on the outside but be careful. You can also use your “cluck” as a conditioned response. You can gallop into your spins, which is a great way to do it. Gallop in, driving the back end up to the front, spiral down and cluck. Occasionally you can use a little spur, but if you do it much you will find you’ll get in trouble.

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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