The 360-degree pivot on the hind end is the start of what will eventually be your spin, so a correct foundation is extremely important.

All major problems in the maneuver, now and later, result from lack of shoulder control.

With Essential 3 (the counter-arc circle) and Essential 6 (moving off the leg), you’ve started to gain control of your horse’s shoulder.

With this, the final Essential 7, you’ll build on that control.

A common mistake at this point is to “go faster wronger.” In other words, eagerness to move a pivot into a spin, prompts riders to sacrifice form for speed.

Don’t do it! Go as slowly as you need in order to maintain control and do it correctly.

In the beginning, think in terms of a 90-degree turn, and then a 180. Build toward the 360 in increments.

There are many different ways of teaching a horse to step his front end around; one tried-and-true method is to walk in your perfect circle, then tighten it down while taking care to keep your horse’s nose pointed in the direction of the turn.

This is the method I’ll teach you.

The goal. Your horse will make his circle smaller and tighter, while keeping his jaw soft and his neck level, with his nose tipped slightly in the direction of movement.

As the circle tightens to a pivot, his outside front leg will cross over the inside one. His hind legs will remain more or less in one place (you needn’t worry about either of them being “planted”).

You will want to move only as fast as your horse can maintain proper form.

Here’s how. Begin by reviewing Essential 2, Walking a Perfect Circle.

Do it in a corner of your arena, so you can use the wall as a visual marker and a physical barrier.

As your horse moves forward with energy, use pressure on the inside rein (to keep his nose tipped to the inside) and with your inside leg in neutral position (to keep the circle round), supporting with your outside rein against your horse’s neck as need be to keep the circle symmetric.

Then gradually begin to reduce the size of the circle.

When you’re ready to step around, remove the pressure of your inside leg and add a little backward pressure to the outside rein by pulling your hand gently towards your belly button (but not across your horse’s neck). Also bump with your outside leg just behind the cinch.

Remember, your inside rein is to indicate the direction of movement and to keep your horse’s nose tipped that way—not to pull your horse around. If you mainly pull that inside rein, you’ll pull your horse out of alignment. And that backward pressure on the outside rein is to suggest stepping across, and shouldn’t be used so much that it pulls your horse’s head to the outside, away from the spin or pulls him back to where he’s stepping behind or on his inside front foot. You’ll probably use your outside leg more than any other aide.

If you keep him aligned with both reins and both legs, you’ll be setting the stage for greater speed later.

In the beginning, don’t worry about speed at all — go as slowly as you must in order to keep your horse’s body properly aligned, his jaw soft and poll flexed, and his nose correctly tipped.

Be satisfied with just a step or two of the front legs crossing over before moving him back onto a slightly larger circle, re-checking proper form.

Then try again. Any time he begins to lose that proper form, move immediately onto the larger circle, reestablish his form, then try again.

Gradually, over time, ask your horse to add steps one at a time.

If you remain patient and keep showing him how to do it (as opposed to trying to force him), you’ll be surprised how quickly he’ll be willing to step all the way around.

Use a visual marker (a fence, bushes or other nearby landmarks if you’re practicing out on the trail) to keep track of how far around you’re going.

Be sure to work equally in both directions, concentrating on getting willing steps in each direction. Your horse will be stepping right around in no time!

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