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
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

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
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
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
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 her shoulder.
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
  1. Close your left hand
  2. Give with your right hand
  3. Pivot your shoulders and head slightly left.
  4. Squeeze and release with your inside (left) leg.
  5. 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
  1. Pull on the left rein.
  2. 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.             


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Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049