Moving the hind-quarters (turn on, or about, the fore-hand)
Now you've taught your horse to flex in a halter and in a snaffle you can start to direct his hind-quarters. This is called a turn on, or about, the fore-hand (depending on whether you begin the exercise from a halt or a walk). The same process works either in a halter or bridle. It's worth practising both.
From the ground
Stand facing your horse’s mid-line (just behind the withers) with one hand about 12 inches from his head on the rein or lead line.
Flex your horse’s head towards you. Hopefully he'll keep his feet still, but if he doesn’t just wait until he does... PATIENCE! Don’t try to MAKE him stop, just flex and wait.
Make a soft fist with your other hand and place it just behind where your stirrup would be on your horse’s rib-cage. This is the hind leg "button".
Keeping his head flexed towards you push against his side with your hand.
If your horse moves his hindquarters away, immediately release your hand from his ribcage but keep his head turned towards you until his feet stop moving. (Well done - you've moved his hindquarters away from you.)
If he hasn’t moved just wait - by keeping the flexion in his head and neck and the light pressure on his rib-cage he'll get the message. It isn't necessary to increase the pressure because the act of bending his head around will necessitate the moving of the hindquarters. It will happen - be patient!
Pay really close attention to your horse. It's important that your timing is good. As soon as you think he' s going to move, release the pressure.
This technique works well because it mimics what you do from the saddle. It's illustrated in Figure 1 below, where you can clearly see that Judith has positioned herself facing Forest Jac. She's shortened the inside rein, flexing his head to the inside. Forest Jac is standing still and her hand is positioned on the "hind-leg button". (Consistent positioning of the hand/leg is important to avoid confusing your horse.)
Figure 1: Setting it up
Figure 2: First step across
But don't stop there....
Practice your feel and timing until you and your horse are thoroughly tuned into each other.
During turns, watch your horse’s inside hind-leg (nearest to you).
Check that this leg crosses over in front of the outside hind-leg. (This is illustrated perfectly in Figure 2 above.)
If it doesn’t then your horse may be stiff. Try turning about the fore-hand (keeping some forward motion) to free up the feet a little more.
Check that your horse moves equally well to the left and right.
From the saddle
This manoeuvre is the building block of all lateral movements! This is what you need to do...
Use the same process to ride turns on and about the forehand.
Flex your horse’s head to one side. (Do this by running your hand down the rein and then taking the slack out of it.)
Draw the whole of your inside leg back, from your seat bone down to your lower leg.
Keeping the flexion, press with your leg until your horse starts to move away.
Release your leg but maintain the lateral flexion until your horse’s feet come to a complete standstill again, then release the rein and allow your horse to stand quietly.
Repeat this several times on the same side before going through the process on the other side.
Your horse will very quickly understand the action of your leg if your cue is clear and your timing good.
This is illustrated below by Judith on the lovely Highland Pony Lulu, owned by Lucy Turmaine. Thank you Lucy for lending her to us for this demonstration!
Figure 3: ask for flexion to the inside by taking the slack out of the rein.
Figure 4: draw the inside leg back and ask for movement away from the leg.
Figure 5: as she moves, release the leg cue, maintain flexion and wait for her feet to stand still.
Figure 6: release flexion and allow your horse to stand quietly.
Lulu was a great example of a horse needing to figure out what was being asked for. When Judith applied the leg cue initially we had to wait a full 2 minutes before Lulu responded. This is where PATIENCE is essential as you wait for the horse to figure it out. THEY WILL ALWAYS MOVE..... EVENTUALLY! In subsequent turns Lulu responded quicker each time, becoming much softer and less resistant. She was a great student and really good fun.... and how cute is she?
Frequently asked questions
Q.Before I get a chance to put my leg on my horse starts to move away.
A. Your horse may be anticipating the manoeuvre or you haven’t worked on his suppleness in the lateral flexion sufficiently. Go back to spending time just flexing your horse to the side until you can do that without him moving his feet at all. Only apply a leg cue when he is still and waiting for your next request. Check that you are not pulling him around by the rein. During a turn around, or on, the fore-hand the inside rein will have very little contact - the horse will be maintaining the flexion himself.
Q.My horse doesn’t move off my leg and I end up having to kick hard.
A. Your horse doesn’t understand your leg cue yet. Set up the exercise with good lateral flexion (his head almost to your knee) then apply your leg cue and wait. And wait. His head and neck will get tired and he will work out that he has to move his quarters to get relief. THIS NEVER FAILS. Keep repeating this until he makes the connection to move his quarters in response to your leg cue.
Q.My horse moves over but keeps going until I have to pull on the reins to stop him. How do I just ride one step and stop?
A. As soon as you feel your horse begin to move away from your leg pressure take your leg off. The more quickly you can do this the better. Feel your horse gather himself and prepare to move just before his inside leg takes a step across. Release the cue before the foot is actually off the ground. Make sure you keep the lateral flexion with the inside rein until his feet come to a stop again. Sometimes this takes a few small circles until he gets the message. However, it will only take a few times before your horse realises that he only has to take one step and save himself a lot of un-necessary effort.