Working on tighter turns with circles and poles

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To help you make tighter turns on a course, you need to work on your horse’s ability to move away from both the inside and outside legs laterally on a circle.

British Showjumping coach Phillippa McKeever says, “Practice increasing and decreasing the size of your circle by applying an inside aid to increase the circle and an outside aid to decrease it.”

The aids

For the inside aid, first half-halt to prepare and balance your horse. Then get the feeling that you’re pushing your horse from your inside leg into your outside hand with slight inside flexion. Let your horse move sideways onto a bigger circle and make sure that you establish this in walk and trot before canter.

Once you can move your horse outwards, practise moving him laterally back in using an outside aid.

Again half-halt first, then straighten your horse’s neck while maintaining the circle.

Use your outside leg and move both hands slightly to the inside to encourage him onto a smaller circle.

Looking early

Another useful exercise to help you to remember to use your lateral aids to achieve tighter turns is to set up three raised poles at A,X and C on the centre line. Work on both reins, circling at either end and changing direction at X. Look for the next pole as you go over the one before, riding forwards positively on the first stride.

You can work on making tighter turns by using a slight leading rein to the inside. Achieve this by opening up the inside hand to the direction you want your horse to turn.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes horses lean in and lose balance, so slow down and increase the size of the circle until your horse’s balance is better developed. The fastest horse and rider combinations are ultimately the ones who have balance and connection.

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