Do you have trouble with your turns? Does your horse flatten out in the corners, falling in rather than going deep into the turn?Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Maybe your horse "pops" a shoulder to the inside or outside?

On a circle, do you find yourself drifting out at times, falling in to the middle of the circle at other times or even doing both from stride to stride?

If so, then it is important to focus on straightening your horse through the turns.

Go straight in a turn

Although it sounds like an oxymoron, travelling straight through a turn is essential in maintaining the balance of the horse. Moving straight allows the hind end to step underneath the horse and bear the weight correctly, rather than falling heavily to the front legs.

A straight-moving horse negotiates a turn effortlessly. He can keep his round outline and move boldly into the next strides simply because his able to use his body in an efficient way.

There are many ways to work on straightening, including stepping out and other techniques. In this article, we will focus on one aid to help keep the shoulders stay centered so that the horse's stride can reach forward and through the body rather than fall to the inside or outside.

Keep in mind that this is just one small aspect of the whole aiding process - but a missing rein aid could be just the part that is permitting the lack of straightness.

Keeping the shoulders in the body

1. Lower your hand to wither height.

2. Keep the contact short enough so the horse feels your aid, but not so short that it interferes with the horse's movement.

3. Steady the rein momentarily as the horse begins to fall to the inside or outside. Use a direct rein pressure (rather than indirect). DO NOT PULL BACKWARD!

4. Release the rein aid as soon as the horse's shoulder is stepping forward and through the body.

The trick is to redirect the energy

The idea is to take the same energy that the horse is going to use to step sideways, and redirect it forward and straight. You can think of it as a "bounce" - as in, bounce the shoulder away from the rein toward the center of the body.

As always, the key is in the release of the rein. Remember that this is a correction. As with all corrections, you only use it during the moment that it is needed, and no longer.

If the rein is held too long, the corresponding hind leg may be blocked from reaching underneath the body, and the effect will be directly counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve. So you have to feel for the moment, apply the aid, and then release it as soon as possible in order to allow the free movement forward.

You can use this rein aid on the inside rein or the outside rein, depending on what is happening with the movement. You could even use them consecutively. If the horse is falling in, use the inside shoulder block, and before the horse falls through the outside shoulder (a common reaction), apply the outside shoulder block.

Theoretically, the outside rein should be the rein that provides stability for the horse anyway, so it should be active through the correction.

So there we have it! In real time, this aid takes less than a second and should be used in conjunction with the usual seat and leg aids. As with most corrections, be sure to encourage impulsion at the end of the correction, since without energy forward, there is no point to anything!

Your horse will let you know that you are on the right track if he seems to move freer, swings through the body better (releases tension), rounds and/or gives you a hearty snort! 

What other tips do you have for straightening the horse?

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11 Comments

  1. Also, remember the influence of the leg on the shoulders is just as effective if not more effective in keeping the horse straight on circles and turns. Of course we are already encouraging the inside hind to step under with the inside leg and redirecting sideways energy with the outside rein, but coordinating the outside leg into the equation brings the body around the turn much more solidly, honestly (with less chance of evasion) and ultimately much more lightly in the bridle.

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