Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Teaching the Turn-around

As soon as my horse is solid in basic maneuvers, I start teaching him the turn-around (spin). He must be reasonably responsive to rider aids in order for me to “place” him in a correct position so I wait until he is far enough along in his training to accept what I am asking - usually after 30 days or so. At that time, he is far from finished but has enough understanding of my aids to begin learning a basic turn-around.

Before I work on turn-arounds, I warm my horse up well with basic exercises, jogging, trotting and loping. Then I let him walk relaxed for a few minutes.

At first, I ask only a half-turn. Sometimes I work on the large circle I have just loped, turning to the inside, walking a few steps then turning to the inside again. This means I change directions every time, though, so more often, I will only work one direction at a time, asking a half-turn, releasing, walking forward in a straight line anywhere in the arena, then asking another half-turn the same way. When my colt is responding as well as I think he is capable of for his level of training I work the other direction.

Example to the right with two hands on the reins: Walk the horse forward (spins need forward motion!), brace your body just enough to stop most (not quite all!) of the forward motion and at the same time place the left rein on his neck (in the direction of your right shoulder but not pushing on the neck or over the neck). Now “help” him with the right (inside) rein with a pull-release motion and, if necessary, your left leg until he turns 180 degrees (half-turn). Release all aids and walk forward. Repeat several times. Change directions and repeat several times in that direction.

  • Do not completely stop before you ask for the turn.
  • Do not pull the outside rein across the neck. Instead, “ask” with only a touch.
  • Do not lift your outside rein high – 4 inches or so is about right. Remember it is the asking rein and you have other aids to back it up.
  • Maintain body aid until turn-around is completed. (If you release body aid the horse will walk forward out of the turn-around.)
  • Use pull/release pressure with inside rein.
  • Apply leg pressure with a “bump”, not a steady push.
  • Make sure your outside leg is not asking for the spin first (It will be a correction if used last and hopefully the time will come when you do not need it.)
  • Apply leg pressure last and only if it is needed.
  • Release all aids and walk forward to a “new” spot to repeat.
Note: It's necesary to release rider aids slightly before the turn-around is completed because the horse is in motion and will complete it on his own. After your know your horse well, you will know how fast your horse "shuts off."I release most of mine at about one-eighth before the completed turn. In a class, this will ensure that I don't pick up a penalty for over-spinning.

When my horse has mastered a half-turn, I ask him to make a full turn (or one spin) by putting two half-turns together with a slight release at half. That is: walk, brace body, outside rein, inside rein, outside leg if necessary, then after one half-turn, release rein pressure slightly (but not body aid), ask for another half-turn. Release all aids and walk forward. Repeat as necessary. The following video is the only one I could find in my collection to demonstate teaching the turn-around:

It could be several months before I feel my horse is ready to perform multiple spins but when he is, it's only a matter of adding to what he already knows. After all, multiple spins are only multiple half-turns! i.e. four spins is eight half-turns. What is important in the first few months of training is correctness. A horse cannot spin fast if he is not correct. Conversely, when he is correct, the speed is easy - the spin almost takes on a life of its own. Speed, however, will magnify any little problems at the basic level. Speed increases the degree of difficulty (that's why we are rewarded for it in the reining pen!) In future posts, I will address several spin "issues", spinning with one hand and specific exercises to make a spin better and faster.

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