Turn on the Haunches 

A few weeks ago I blogged about Turn On The Forehand so now I think we`re overdue a blog about turn on the haunches.

Turn on the haunches put simply, is when the hindlegs turn on a very small circle (about one metre diameter) and the forelegs scribe a larger circle around them. Basically, the reverse of turn on the forehand. It is the prequel to walk pirouettes, which I think makes people slightly afraid of turning on the haunches because it seems technical, or difficult.

I like riding turn on the haunches as it encourages the horse to step under and take their weight onto it, so it is useful for strengthening and introducing the idea of collection. I also like riding turn on the haunches with horses who like to fall through their outside shoulder as it teaches them to move their shoulders across in a turn. It is also useful for riders who over use the inside rein and tend to give away the outside contact. I often begin introducing the concept of turn on the haunches by riding squares, which awakens the rider and horse to the outside aids and increase control over the outside shoulder as well as beginning to encourage the inside hindleg to step under.

Riding turn on the haunches will increase the sensitivity of the horse to the rider`s aids, teach the rider to co-ordinate the aids, and improve the suppleness of the horse`s shoulders. Making the shoulders more mobile will enable the horse to be straightened by the rider, which also helps collection.

Unlike turn on the forehand, which is performed from halt (turn about the forehand is from walk), turn on the haunches is performed from medium walk, aiming to maintain the four beat rhythm through the turn. The inside hind leg marches on the spot whilst the outside hind leg circles around it, but not crossing over. However, the front legs do cross as they move forwards and sideways around the turn.

How do you ride turn on the haunches?

First, establish an active medium walk with the horse on the aids. As you approach the turn ensure you have inside flexion (if you are turning right then inside flexion is to the right), with the inside leg on the girth to maintain the walk through the turn and to prevent the inside leg stepping sideways. The outside leg is behind the girth, helping to maintain the walk and to prevent the hindlegs from swinging out. The inside rein opens to guide the horse around the turn whilst the outside rein stops the head and neck bending excessively. The rider`s weight should be slightly to the inside seat bone. Before you make the turn use half halts to shorten the walk slightly and collect it to help the horse balance through the turn.

It is vital that in turn on the haunches the walk rhythm is not altered nor the activity affected and the horse steps backwards. If the horse starts to step back then immediately trotting forwards before attempting the turn again should help them understand. Riding positively out of all turns should also help keep the horse thinking forwards. You should feel that the horse remains balanced through the turn, and doesn`t rush or throw themselves around the turn. If they do then ride fewer strides, so that you are riding a 50 degree turn instead of a 90 degree turn until the horse stays in balance, then you can increase the turn.

Hopefully now turning on the haunches seem more achievable to you, and you can give it a go next time you ride. After doing a few try just trotting some circles and see if you can feel the difference and the increased straightness of your horse.


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