Turn On The Forehand

I’ve recently been re-enlightened in the uses of turn on the forehand.

I remember teaching it to our ponies as kids, but we were more interested in the fact we could then open gates within seconds using it, than for any other reasons.

Then I remember reading a disparaging article that said turn on the forehand encourages the horse onto his forehand so shouldn’t be used that often. It’s also never used in British Dressage dressage tests, which I think makes a lot of people forget about it.

Anyway, I’ve not used turn on the forehand much in my riding, leaving it for gate-opening duties, and when I’m looking for something different to do today.

Last week a friend of mine came over to teach me and Otis some in hand work – blog coming up on this soon! After lunging him for a couple of minutes she brought him in and got him to do turn on the forehand. 

Then the penny dropped. Turn on the forehand is a really good exercise for stretching and warming up the lateral muscles in the hindquarters, and for teaching the horse to cross his hind legs, as he would in leg yield.

I can’t believe I was stupid enough to not connect turn on the forehand with other lateral work.

Of course, now my brain is functioning I realised that the exercise I did a couple of weeks ago in my lesson is basically a glorified turn around the forehand, encouraging the inside hind to step underneath the horse – You can read about it here.

Both exercises work on the muscles needed for lateral work, but used at different times in a horse’s training and exercise routine.

For those who can’t remember this movement, I should clarify that turn on the forehand is ridden from halt, and the hind quarters execute a circle around the inside front leg, which pivots without lifting up – most useful when opening gates. A turn about the forehand is most often used for dressage training and is when the front legs walk in the correct walk rhythm, but on a very small circle, whilst the hind legs scribe a bigger circle.

The two get interchanged a lot, so it’s worth making sure that you can differentiate between them. Currently Llani has just learnt to pivot on his inside front leg, but he is sidestepping nicely with the hind legs so his lateral work is improving.

To ride a turn on/about the forehand you want to establish a good walk and then square halt, maintaining the rein contact. Turn your body in the direction you want to turn and apply that leg just behind the girth, to push the horse’s hindquarters away. I find dropping a little bit of weight into the inside seat bone can help too. The steps should be even and rhythmical. A lot of people pull with the inside hind, but the horse will drop the inside shoulder and fall away to the outside.

I’ve used this movement on squares, but I read somewhere that triangles are good progressions as instead of turning ninety degrees at each corner, the horse has to turn one hundred and twenty degrees… If my maths is correct …

Since my dressage lesson with the glorified turn around the forehand exercise I have started using turn on the forehand in my warm ups, and now that I’ve started doing a little bit of in hand work I will be trying it from the floor. 

Here are a couple of articles I found on the topic:



One thought on “Turn On The Forehand

  1. firnhyde Aug 30, 2015 / 11:11 am

    With young horses that are being stubborn about leg-yields I like to go back and teach a simple turn on the forehand and a simple turn on the haunches. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough that they know inside leg back = move haunches and inside leg forward = move forehand. Then going in a walk you can push forehand, haunches, forehand, haunches and get a really awkward sort of a sideways squiggle out of them which eventually develops into leg yield as you decrease the forward-and-back motion of your inside leg until it is being quiet and in the middle like a proper leg yield aid. It just helps some horses to learn how to cross forelegs and hindlegs individually before having to do both.

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