In the winter or any off season I like to focus on exercises that can improve a horse's "basics". I gave you some ideas last week but here are some more thoughts on some key movements.
Pivots, turn-arounds and spins have similar components but they are not the same things and I most definitely train each as it's own separate maneuver. This can be alot of ground to cover so I'll talk the pivot in a later blog....
A turn-around is, simply put: a slow spin. It's a maneuver that teaches a horse where to place his feet. A horse should be very limber in his shoulders and execute the turn-around in a low, sweepy manner. Turning on his haunches but reaching with his front legs. The sequence is: outside front, crossing over inside front. The outside leg always crossing in front of or "over" the inside leg - this is very important as the opposite impedes impulsion and will cause the horse to lose his forward motion. Many people forget that the turn-around is a forward maneuver - especially as it builds into a true spin. As horses build up speed in the turn-around, it helps to stablize their hindquarters but only when a horse is good at this maneuver though will I worry about their inside hind leg or "pivot foot". Many times, this develops as you ride them.
A trotting circle establishes good rythm, a walking circle teaches a horse where to place his legs. Counter bends are important because they "push" the shoulders over. Horses that are over-bent never learn to spin properly. I tell my students that a good general rule is to always keep a horse's body arced along the line he is traveling.
So, lateral work is very important when teaching these moves. Small, correct trotting circles help because a small circle positions a horses front legs correctly, helping the horse to begin the cross-over. As I stated before, I always teach the cross-over first.
Really good side-passes are a necessary prerequisite too. A horse should move front and back together, not leading with either shoulder or a hip. The body should be straight with little or no bend against the line of travel. Often you see horses that need more work on this bent incorrectly against the line of travel, for example: side-passing to the right but bent to the left. The bend is a training aid that helps a horse accomplish this move but as you work on the side-pass your horse's body should get straighter and straighter. This allows the horse to really step over with that outside leg.
If a horse starts to stall out a little when he's asked to turn-around, just squeeze with both legs, asking the horse to slightly move forward and then bump with your outside leg.
As you progress, the horse should "seek" the turn but not over bend or "rubber neck" so I like to bump with my outside leg, push the shoulder with my outside rein, bump the head to the inside with the inside rein and lastly, take my inside leg off the horse and give him space to move into.
Good luck with your regimen of winter exercises and stay warm! Talk to you next week, JD