Turns on the forehand in the 1st Level Rider Test

I like this question and I am also pleased that turn on the forehand has been included in the First Level Rider Test. Just as in the distant past when leg yielding was deemed unsuitable for inclusion in the tests (See “My Leg Goes Where?” on the Media Productions page of the website), turns on the forehand have been eschewed by some who claim “It puts horses on the forehand.” Others insist that it should only be used at the very beginning of the horse’s training and then abandoned in favor of shoulder-fore and other movements. Having been trained for years in the Scandinavian tradition, where leg yielding is done without bringing the rider’s inside leg behind the girth and turns on the forehand are performed in motion—not from the halt—and always with the horse thinking forward into the reins, I reject those arguments.

That said, let’s talk about what matters to me in the execution of turn on the forehand. First of all, like every single movement in the entire dressage universe, the horse has to march around in rhythm, constantly thinking forward into the bit and staying round and connected. He should neither plod around listlessly nor whip around violently.

If he is standing off the track near E and asked to make the turn to the left, you should keep his neck straight as it comes out of the withers and position his poll slightly to the left. The Rider Test asks for the movement to be done from the halt, so stand still first for the required three seconds. As you start the turn it’s OK for the horse to step slightly forward. Just as in turn on the haunches, the pivot leg (in this case the left front), need not stay exactly on the spot. It would be better for its placement to describe a small circle than for it to stick rigidly in the dirt and twist. That’s why the movement is begun off the track, giving him a little room to move forward each step as he completes the 180° turn.

Remember that the turn is executed footfall by footfall. Each aid, whether motivating or modifying, only lasts that long. Your inner pushing leg can stay near the girth. Move the girth around his shoulders and his hindquarters will go there automatically. Keep your opposite (outside) leg on to receive the energy and redirect it forward into the bit. It’s easy to overuse the inside rein. It is supposed to be the aid of least importance. And be sure you don’t get locked on the outside rein. It says its piece at the right moment and waits for its turn to come around again The horse shouldn’t hang there. If he does, where’s his reward? And as the movement is completed, move off directly without a hesitation or stop. Do all that and bingo! You’re golden.

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