When you open and shut a gate out hacking, you’ll be asking your horse to do a turn-on-the-forehand. On the ground, when you ask your horse to move over in the stable, he’ll perform a turn-on-the-forehand. Yet this isn’t an exercise that is commonly used by riders when they’re schooling. However, as grand prix dressage rider Elizabeth Allen explains, when ridden correctly, turning on the forehand can help improve your horse’s overall way of going.
What is a turn-on-the-forehand?
When a horse turns on the forehand, his hindquarters move in an arc around his front legs, which remain virtually still. His inside hindleg moves across in front of the outside hindleg. His other hooves will step up, straighten and put down again. A true turn-on-the-forehand will keep the rhythm and footfalls of the walk while it’s happening.
What are the benefits?
1. Introduces lateral work
Turn-on-the-forehand can be used as an introduction to lateral work — in particular, leg yield — as it teaches your horse the concept of yielding to leg pressure.
2. Improves the walk
It helps if your horse has a tendency to tense up and their walk becomes two-beat (the walk should be four-beat), because it makes them think about where their feet are. Turn-on-the-forehand also gives you more control of the rhythm of the walk and over each individual step.
3. Encourages acceptance of the contact
It improves your horse’s acceptance of the contact. You’re using both your legs and the reins and your horse learns to accept them.
4. Enhances their outline
It encourages your horse to become rounder in their outline. The flexion and asking them to step across with their hindlegs encourages the horse to let go and become softer over their back, too.
The role of the rider
Your balance and coordination of aids play a big part in riding this movement successfully. You ask for flexion with your inside hand and put a little more weight onto your inside seat bone.
Watch you don’t collapse your inside shoulder, as this causes your weight to shift to the outside and is likely to unbalance your horse.
Your inside leg asks your horse to move away. Then you use the outside rein to balance that movement. Your outside leg controls how quickly your horse moves around.
Meet the expert: Elizabeth Allen is a BHSI and UKCC3 coach. She rides at grand prix level and is part of Collective Equestrian.