Dressage turns and corners

How to teach yourself to keep your outside hand in the right place

This is for you if:

  • Your horse cuts his corners.
  • You have trouble riding your horse through corners.
  • Your circles are not round.
  • When you ride a circle, your horse makes the circle get smaller.

The next time you ride a circle or turn, check out the position of your outside hand. Does it want to cross to the other side? Do you look down and see that it is on top of your horse’s withers? Are both your hands the same height? Start answering these questions and you may notice even more!

Why is this important to notice? Crossing your outside hand to the inside on a turn makes the turn difficult for your horse to do it correctly.

  • It makes him unbalanced.
  • It causes him to bulge his outside shoulder to the outside of the turn.
  • It makes him dip his inside shoulder instead of balancing both sides of his body. It makes him cut the corner or make the circle smaller.
  • With most of his weight on the inside shoulder, his hind legs cannot step under to support his body in the turn.
  • It can make him sore and you may not even know it.

6 steps to repeat each time you ride

  1.  Ride a turn and without trying to change anything, notice where your outside hand goes.
  2.  Halt your horse. On loose reins, move your outside hand 12 inches to the outside. Pause and notice what it feels like (probably strange). This is for you, so don’t expect anything to change with your horse.
  3. Repeat #2 five times in a row.
  4. Pick up both reins and ride a turn. Notice if your hands are different. Notice if your horse moves through the turn better or worse. It’s okay if you don’t notice anything.
  5. Halt and repeat #2.
  6. Pick up your reins and head towards your turn. Four strides before you turn, move your outside hand to the outside 6 inches to the outside. Focus on keeping your outside hand in this position. Notice if your horse moves through the turn better or worse.
  7. Now ride a turn and notice changes in you and your horse.

Noticing lots of details is foundational to Loving Presence with Horses.

As you move up the levels in dressage, a very slight shift in position of your outside hand can make or break a shoulder in or pirouette.

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