Square exercise with turns on the haunches
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, February 14, 2008 10:03 PM
The square exercises that I want to explain here are usually done in walk. There are two kinds:
  • The square with turns on the haunches
  • The square with turns on the forehand
I find that square with turns on the haunches is easier for a horse to understand and execute without much trouble. Square with turns on the forehand requires more practice from horse and rider alike.
We will talk today about the first one - square with turn on the haunches. It is beneficial for a very green horse and for an advanced horse. It all depends on what to expect The benefits of this work for the rider are increased awareness and quickness and ability to coordinate the aids. The benefits for the horse are increased attention to the rider and development of suppleness, mobility and collection. The simple execution is as follows:
Plan in your head what size of a square you want to ride. Most of the time sides of 10 m work really well in an arena because you can use quarter lines as your guidelines. This way you stay off the walls to make sure you are turning your horse and not the wall. Ride a nice marching forward walk on a slightly shorter rein. Near the turn slow down, open your inside reins slightly but stay quiet with it. Active aids are outside aids: rein, thigh, knee and calf. They ask your horse to turn. During the turn keep your body perpendicular to your horse's body. Our objective is not a perfect quarter-turn on the haunches. Our objective is to move shoulders more than haunches, to really make a turn and not just quarter of a circle. This way it is not important for now to create the bend or keep it through the turn. When your horse starts to move sideways, remember, quarter turn is just 2-3 steps, so do not ask for a long time. Otherwise your horse will turn more then 90 degrees. Use inside leg to stop the turn and send your horse forward into marching walk.
Things that can go wrong:
  • You are trying to slow down your walk or initiate the turn and your elbows are moving backwards. Usually reins are too long.
  • Instead of stepping sideways with his shoulders your horse executes a quarter of a circle. Not enough outside rein and outside knee.
  • Your horse slows down too much or even stops and moves his haunches outside. Your outside lower leg is not far back enough to control the haunches. Too much inside rein.
  • It is hard for you to keep the appropriate size of a square. Put some cones on the ground to help you with that. Stay in the present moment and deal with the task at hand. If your horse is slow to react initiate your turn earlier until he starts to listen better.
  • Your horse turns too quickly. Use your inside leg to regulate the speed. This is not a usual problem.
Practice until you can work out how much of each aid and for how long you need it to make exercise flow smoothly. Horses are very good at anticipation. Very soon your horse will get what you are trying to do and start to cooperate better. Finish with couple good turns, give your horse a brake and change direction.
I do not like turn on the haunches from a halt. I do it from the walk. I rather spend more time training and end up with a pirouette. With my approach the square exercise makes it perfect ground to improve and polish my pirouettes.
For an advanced horse the walk should be collected, and turns should be quarter-pirouettes. It can be done in walk, collected canter or collected trot (passage) with piaffe quarter-pirouettes. For an advanced version your horse must have a positioning at all time and appropriate bent in the turns.
Happy riding...
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