How to Use the Quarter Turn at the Walk

One way of improving a horse’s way of going is the quarter turn at the walk. It enhances the canter departs, improves turns, and encourages the horse to sink back onto his hindquarters, all without excessive use of the reins (do you hear a trend developing here? The school of lightness is predicated on not allowing a tug of war to develop between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth) . This exercise is best done in a square pattern, but not inside an enclosure. It’s best to do it out in the open, so that the horse doesn’t depend on the fence or wall as a support. I use distant trees and telephone poles as markers, and in a large flat area cones could even be helpful, as long as they are far away from the track the horse is following. Start out in a straight line, for maybe 30 or 40 feet. Then turn your body to look at the marker 90° from the line of travel, really “sit down” on the seat bone on the side you are turning toward. You can even drop your foot down into that stirrup. Your shoulders will turn toward the new line of travel. If the horse doesn’t get the signal, your outside leg tickling at the girth can reinforce the turn, while using as little rein as possible, of course none would be the preferred amount. But use as much as is necessary to get a 90° turn. Then when you get the turn, you go into neutral seat. The legs, seat and reins go relaxed, not asking, so the horse gets a reward. Go 30 more feet, and look for another target at 90° and repeat the procedure. After four turns you will be back where you started. This is repeated as you go around the square. The exercise is done for the day when the horse initiates the turns from your body. Of course you do this exercise on both sides. As time goes on you may begin to wonder why the reins are there at all!

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