Horse-Training Essentials: Riding Good Corners

In Part 2 of this series, see how the spiraled squares exercise can help you ride good corners in your next horsemanship class.

In Part 1 of this series, we emphasized the importance of looking and supporting through corners. Now, let’s apply those fundamentals to three exercises to further improve how you ride through your corners.

Spiraled Squares Exercise

I use this exercise in everything from hunter and dressage lessons to reining and horsemanship lessons.

Start out in a large square. Extend the jog so you have more forward motion. Ride the square: long side and corner, long side and corner, etc. Then begin to “spiral in” on the square. You make the square smaller while maintaining straight lines. You do that with a leg-yield.

Practicing for the show ring? Now that you have improved your corners, purchase AQHA’s “Showing to Win: Western Horsemanship” DVD to prepare yourself for your next horsemanship class.

When you are on the straight line, you ask the horse to move laterally to the inside of your square a couple of steps, and then make your next corner. Go straight ahead, leg-yield a couple of steps and corner. When your square gets very small, you trot out of it.

When you begin doing the exercise, don’t leg-yield on every side of the square. As your horse gets really tuned in, then try a leg-yield on every side of the square. When you do that, your square will become small very quickly. To add to the exercise, I have my riders stop and spin when they come down to that very small square.

As you ride your squares, remember to maintain a consistent rhythm in your horse’s gait -- it’s hard to keep in mind, but it will help your horse maintain impulsion and collection.

Master the exercise at the extended jog first, and then try it at a lope. Be sure to practice going left and right.

Every horse I’ve had, dull or light, has responded after just a couple of turns. It really teaches the horse to move immediately off the outside aids when applied.

Collection Exercises

To be successful in your corners, your horse must be collected. The spiraled squares exercise works on that, as well.

As your squares get smaller, the horse must collect more, and that’s why it’s important to begin with good forward motion. When the square shrinks, the horse must bring his body shorter and raise his back to collect. The hind legs come up more underneath him to hold the balance, whether it’s for a collected jog or lope, trot or canter.

Planning on showing in western horsemanship? Purchase AQHA’s “Showing to Win: Western Horsemanship” DVD to better prepare yourself for the show ring.

To improve your horse’s ability to collect, you must build up the strength of his topline.

Sudden Turns

Try riding a “short diagonal.” Come across the diagonal of the pen, and at the middle of the arena, turn sharply in a square turn. Then go back toward a different angle of the pen and do another square turn. Do them in different places in the pen, just to remind the horse that he must wait for you to lay that rein and leg. It reminds the horse to listen to your aids and cues.

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