Bending your horse through a corner not only helps with suppleness, it’s also important for balance in your Dressage tests and also in those tight turns in Ease of Handling. We always want to strive for our horse bending around our inside leg, not pushing or bracing against our leg. The corners in your Dressage riding should be similar to a half circle. Horses love to cut the corners and turn that square corner into an oval!
In working equitation, there are turns, circles, and changes of direction during which you want to show that your horse has flexion from poll to tail. Here are some pointers and exercises to practice at home. If you don’t have an arena, make your corners on a flat area with ground rails.
Exercise 1: Place a cone about 3 or 4 feet from wall in each corner (or this distance away from the ground poles you’ve used to create a corner). Halt before each corner. Proceed with a feeling of leg yield so horse is bent around inside leg while going between cone and corner.
Benefit: Your horse will begin to wait for you to guide him through the corner, instead of rushing, bracing against your inside leg and turning the Dressage arena into an oval.
Exercise 2: As you are passing through corner, perform a walk pirouette ( turn on haunches ) and change direction.
Benefit: The pirouette will allow horse and rider to get a good understanding of the bend around the inside leg, horse will improve the bend in the corners.
Exercise 3: On quarter line (inside track of wall or your poles), leg yield toward the wall just before the corner, continue through corner keeping that same leg yield feeling.
Benefit: Reminds horse that the slight pressure of rider’s leg means to move away, which creates bend if done properly.
Points to remember:
- Try not to pull your horse through the corner with your inside rein: doing so does not create proper bend through the rib cage and can actually create the opposite with an inverted bend.
- Don’t override the corner. Set the horse up for the bend just before the corner, then let them balance through on their own. This helps with self carriage, and they will feel a reward at each corner with their rider sitting quiet.
- The pirouette (turn on haunches) is a great test of precision, teaching the rider to properly coordinate the horse before executing any movement with the horse. This type of coordination leads to balance and agility in your Ease of Handling as well as Speed test.
One of the most fun aspects of Working Equitation is the many goals you can attain, while having fun with focus and agility!