Bending Your Horse Correctly on Curves and Squares, Part 1
Learn the difference between riding your horse through a properly executed corner and a properly executed curve.
By AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole in The American Quarter Horse Journal | January 11, 2015
There is a difference in the way a horse performs a square turn vs. a curve.
When you talk about making square corners, your horse has to keep his body straighter and more in alignment. You want the horse to keep his head in front of him.
You want your horse to ride to the corner and then simply square up to turn. If he’s making a left turn, he moves the hind end, his hips, to the right and brings the front end, his shoulders, around to the left. You push the hips to the outside and bring the front end around the corner.
Square turns and curves are found often in horsemanship patterns. To further improve your horsemanship skills and score better in the horse-show ring, check out AQHA’s “Showing to Win: Western Horsemanship” DVD.
I control the hind end with my inside leg more and control the front end with my hand more. So for a left-hand corner, I would bring my hand to the left, into the turn, and push with my left, inside leg, moving his hips to the right, away from the turn.
On a curve, you keep a nice arc in the horse’s body and maintain that arc.
To maintain your horse on an arc, his head needs to flex in the bridle and give his nose to the inside of the circle and move more off your outside leg with the inside leg supporting.
For a left-hand arc, I want his nose flexed slightly to the left, to the inside of the arc, moving off my right, outside leg.
Each horse is an individual, but I try to use the same basic cues with each horse.
More leg and a little hand is how I try to make it look, so I don’t have to over-steer to perform the maneuver.
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The trick to doing both corners and curves is gaining control over your horse’s body at both ends. You want your horse supple enough and giving enough in his body that you can ask him to give in different ways.
What makes a great pattern horse, whether you’re doing a curve or a corner, is a horse that gives in his body and responds readily to your cues, without resistance. Your horse must respond promptly to your cues in pattern classes.
A pleasure horse or even a reiner, when asked to lope off, can have a little more delay and a little pause before responding to that cue. But with a horsemanship horse or a trail horse, you don’t want that pause. You don’t want him to jump into what you’re asking, but you do want him to move into it correctly and readily.
If you ask for a square corner and you put your leg on and your hand on to neck-rein, he needs to move those two directions immediately.
Check back for Part 2, in which you'll learn how to troubleshoot some common problems that both riders and horses have with these maneuvers.