Written collaboratively by Lindsey McNeill and Rebecca Bott.
A turn on the forehand is an advanced maneuver for horses and riders. A definition provided by George Morris says, “This exercise means that the horse’s haunches move in a circular track around the forehand, which remains close to stationary and acts almost as a pivot” (Morris, 1990). Turning on the forehand is similar to a turn on the haunches, but the front hoof on the side you are turning towards becomes the pivot point. Turning on the forehand can help riders become more effective in their sideways and forward driving aides.
Performing the maneuver
When a horse turns on the forehand, the maneuver begins with the head moving in the direction of the turn. During a right turn, the right front hoof will become the pivot point. The left front hoof, that is not the pivot point, will continue to move around with the hind end during the turn. The horse should promptly move its hind end in the opposite direction of the pivot hoof. Forehand turns can be executed as partial turns such as 90- or 180-degree turns, or may be a full circle or more, and typically performed at the halt or walk.
When performing a turn on the forehand there are two important aides for the rider to keep in mind; leg and hand. These will be essential when performing this maneuver. The combination of leg and hand will create the best turn on the forehand. This exercise teaches the horse how to properly respond to leg aides, so placing the leg in the correct position is very important. If one were still performing the right turn on the forehand, the right leg would become the motivating leg and should move a little bit behind the girth area, towards the hind end. When performing a right turn on the forehand, the horse’s head will move to the right. The rider would create a slight bend in the horse to the right using their hand aide. This helps the horse set his front right hoof as the pivot point. A rider should not over bend their horse, as this could cause the horse to turn in a circle rather than pivoting. Using both aides in the correct way will make this exercise easier for both horse and rider.
Tips for Success:
- Be patient with both yourself and your horse, each horse could respond differently to your aides.
- When a horse or rider is first introduced to this maneuver, it should be performed at a halt
- If the horse is not performing as expected, first check to make sure that the motivating hand and leg are in the correct place. Reset the horse between attempts by taking a few steps forward and allowing the horse to settle.
- Do not over-bend the neck, as this can cause the horse to turn in a circle rather than pivoting.
- Do not use the opposite leg or hand as motivators. This can signal the horse to perform other maneuvers.
A turn on the forehand is a skill mastered by many advanced riders, but a maneuver that can be successfully attempted by less advanced riders with patience and practice. The skills required for this maneuver can help riders become more effective at leg yields and other lateral work with their horse.