In order to create a supple, obedient and balanced horse the rider should have the ability to isolate different parts of the horses body in order to create straightness, impulsion and proper contact.
The most elementary of all lateral movements is the turn on the forehand. It is a prerequisite for all the lateral work that comes later including leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in and half pass. It can be done very early in a horses training after the rider has developed the desire to go forward in the horse. (Always step #1!) It could also be trained in hand before the horse is trained to go under saddle.
Turns on the forehand can be done from a halt or from a walk. I like to start it either on the ground (in hand) or with a ground person to help the horse to understand the concept. Essentially what we want is that the riders leg activates the horses hind leg to yield away from pressure around a relatively stationary front end.
The riders leg should be slightly behind the girth and pulsate on the ribcage of the horse. The moment the horse yields, the aid is removed and the horse rewarded. Eventually the amount of rotation can be increased with the horses level of training.
What I look for, as a trainer, is a deep crossing of the inner hind leg under the body and in front of the opposite hind leg. This exercise works to help loosen the horses hips and gain obedience to the riders inside leg which is required before teaching the horse to bend on the lateral plane.
Common problems occur if the horse only steps in a shallow way without crossing or actually puts the inside hind leg behind the outside. Another common problem is if the shoulder is allowed to fall to the outside. The horse and rider must remain connected on the outer rein and a soft top line with inner poll flexion towards the inner leg should be maintained to gain maximum benefit of the exercise. A bigger problem is if the horse begins to back up. A forward thinking mentality must be maintained and this problem should be corrected immediately by sending the horse forward. If this continues to be a problem, the turn on forehand can be attempted from the walk.
When done properly, the turn on the forehand can help supple the horses hips and also help the horse to gain understanding and obedience to the lateral leg aid which will be needed in further levels of training.
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Jenna & Martin