Sprite is a small, stocky, sturdy, cute horse. If she were any shorter, she'd be a pony. In the winter,
her coat gets very long and she looks like a woolly mammoth. She's sassy in the field, and you can
tell she was hot stuff in her younger years. Now that she's getting a little older, she has to watch
what she eats.
Sprite's also the motherly type. She babysits horses that don't like to stay alone in the barn or
pasture. She stands nice and still when a new student mounts, although she might move if you jab
her with a knee or toe. A terrific trail horse, Sprite proudly leads where other horses fear to
venture. Being calm and trustworthy makes her a good confidence builder for the beginning rider.
Turning Left or Right
To turn left, close your left hand, or pull gently on the left rein, and give with your right hand by
moving it very slightly forward. However much you pull on the left rein, you should give equally with
your right. You reverse this process to turn right.
Alas, you try this maneuver and nothing happens! Sprite turns her head and stares at you with
those big brown eyes, a blank look on her face. Here's the problem: You used a rein aid without
using your legs. Sprite did exactly what you asked her to do: She turned her head. Something has
to tell her to move forward and turn her body too, and that's your legs. Try this:
Riding and controlling the horse is nothing more than using pressure to issue subtle commands. You
vary the balance of pressure from your hands and legs to bring the desired result. You never use a
hand without using a leg.
If this textbook version of how to turn isn't working, or you're getting confused trying to coordinate
your hand and leg aids, try this to turn left:
Walk straight for several steps, and turn left again. Next, practice turning right.
Now let's alternate turns. Walk about 10 strides, then ask your horse to turn right. Walk another 10
strides, then ask her to turn left.
Try making a complete circle to the left. First, visualize a circle about 60 feet in diameter. Focus on
it. Ask your horse to walk, then turn gradually onto the circumference of the circle. Once you've
successfully completed the circle to the left, try a circle to the right.
What to do if...the horse slows down or stops when you ask her to turn.
You may not have followed your hand aids with the leg aids soon enough. Understand that in all
instances pulling back on the reins - even when you only pull with one hand - means "stop" or "slow
down" to the horse. Something must also say to the horse, "No, don't stop or slow down, but turn."
That something is the pulse from your leg.
You may be squeezing continuously, with the horse unable to feel the difference in pressure. Or you
might be squeezing with your knee or thighs instead of your lower legs. So squeeze with the inside of
your calves and then release. If your grip constantly, you'll never communicate with your horse; it's
like trying to talk while holding your lips stiffly.
The horse might also fail to turn if you give too sharp a signal with the reins. This would cause her to
lose her energy, or impulsion. Never pull a horse's head so far to the inside that it moves beyond
Last but not least, many beginners try to turn left by pushing both hands to the left side of the
horse's withers. It's an especially common problem among those who have ridden before without the
benefit of lessons.
What to do if...you asked correctly, but she refuses to turn.
This is a serious problem. It will feel like you're driving a truck without power steering. If your horse
is following another horse, she simply may not want to turn away from him. Put more space, at least
30 feet, between them to lessen the attraction.
Or maybe your horse wants to head back to the barn. Whatever her desires, she's got to listen to
you. Give her the aids more insistently. Use your progression of aids.
What to do if...the horse won't follow the path of the circle.
Outside influences, such as other horses or the barn, could distract her, or you could be making
technical errors in your aids. Ask you instructor.
|Aids to Turning Left
- Close your left hand
- Give with your right hand
- Pivot your shoulders and head slightly left.
- Squeeze and release with your inside (left) leg.
- Keep you right, or outside, leg about two inches behind the girth. To
turn right, close the right hand, give with the left hand, and so forth.
|Alternative Aids to Turn Left
- Pull on the left rein.
- Squeeze with both legs.
|Inside or Outside?
In the world of riding, we never say "left leg" or "right leg."
It gets too confusing when you're switching directions.
Instead we say the "inside" or the "outside" leg.
The inside leg is always the leg on the inside of the circle.
If you're riding to the left, or counterclockwise,
your left leg is the inside leg, and your right leg is the outside leg.
This inside/outside stuff doesn't matter much when you go straight. But you can't keep going
straight forever - there's always
a beltway or an ocean to force you into making a turn.
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049