Turn On the Forehand Course
This course explains the turn on the forehand, the aids for asking for this movement, and common errors made when doing a turn on the forehand. Learn when and where to do a turn on the forehand, the benefits of this exercise for both horse and rider, and a brief history of this movement.
Eliza Sydnor Romm
FEI Rider, Trainer, & Instructor
Eliza Sydnor Romm is a classically trained dressage rider and instructor. Her goal is to successfully train horses and riders with an emphasis on partnership and harmony.
- What is a Turn On the Forehand?
- Turn On the Forehand Video
- History of Turn On the Forehand
- Aids for Turn On the Forehand
- When, Where, & Where to Do a Turn On the Forehand
- Benefits of the Turn On the Forehand
- Common Errors in Turn On the Forehand
- Turn On the Forehand Interactive Example
- Turn On the Forehand Game
- Turn On the Forehand Quiz
1. What is a Turn On the Forehand?
The horse’s front legs remain relatively in one spot, and the hind end travels 180 degrees around the front end.
One of the first lateral (sideways) movements taught to horses is called a turn on the forehand. It introduces the idea that the rider’s leg aid can mean to go sideways instead of just go forward.
Did You Know?
The horse moves away from the rider’s leg that is applied behind the girth and moves on three tracks with the front legs somewhat stationary and the hind legs moving in a 180 degree circle around the front legs.
The horse’s body is straight or slightly bent away from the direction of travel.
The horse’s hind legs cross under it’s body.
The horse seen from above performing a turn on the forehand.
2. A Brief History of Turn On the Forehand
According to the German handbook of training, Advanced Techniques of Riding, the turn on the forehand, or “the turn around the forehand in motion,” was developed by the Duke of Newcastle in the 17th century.
“This exercise taught the horse, once he had submitted to the one-sided inside aids, to seek and accept the outside aids. This is the first step towards straightening the horse on curved and straight lines. It also prepares the horse for the collecting movement of shoulder-in, which is the foundation of all other lateral movements.”
Turn On the Forehand Aids
The rider’s weight should be evenly centered in the saddle.
The rider’s inside leg comes back slightly behind the girth to encourage the horse’s hind leg to cross over.
The rider’s outside leg should be on the girth, receiving and regulating each step.
The rider’s inside rein flexes the horse slightly to the inside – so in a turn on the forehand from the left leg, the horse is flexed slightly left at the poll. The neck should not be bent. Once the horse begins to move away from the inside leg, the inside rein is softened so as not to block the inside hind from stepping across.
The outside rein prevents any forward movement and helps maintain the bend.
The aids should be relaxed slightly after each step, before asking for another step, as a reward the horse.
When the turn is complete, the horse should be ridden forward at the walk with energy.
When to ask for a turn on the forehand
Before you attempt a turn on the forehand, you should ensure that you have warmed up your horse and have the supervision of your trainer or an adult if needed.
Make sure your horse is responding to your aids and moving forward with impulsion from his hind end.
Why do a turn on the forehand?
Most horses fall in one direction and bulge out slightly in the other, due to a stronger side and a weaker side. The turn on the forehand helps the horse to understand to move AWAY from the pressure of one leg, rather than leaning into it, which is their natural tendency. This movement helps the horse to develop coordination to ADDUCT one hind leg (move it toward the midline of the body) and ABDUCT the other hind leg (move it away from the body.) This takes practice and should be started slowly before moving on to leg yielding and more advanced lateral movements.
Where to do a turn on the forehand?
If you will be turning towards the outside of the arena/schooling area, you should take an inner track before halting to ensure you have enough space to execute the movement – if you are on the right rein, you will be asking your horse to turn to the left. It is usually best to begin teaching the turn on the forehand in the middle of the arena, so there are no walls to make the horse feel claustrophobic.
Benefits For the Horse
This movement teaches the horse to ADDUCT one hind leg (move it toward the midline of the body) and ABDUCT the other leg (move it away from the body.) This is a crucial skill for the horse to learn and takes time to master. It strengthens their hindquarter muscles, along with their hocks and stifle joints.
Benefits For the Rider
It has practical use when helping the rider to open and close gates while mounted.
Some common errors in turn on the forehand
Horse does not understand to move away from the pressure of the rider’s leg, and instead just walks forward or swings into the leg asking him to move away.
Rider pulls back on the reins when they are asking with their sideways driving leg, and the horse lifts the head and neck to try to get away from the pressure.
Rider blocks the horse from walking forward and instead the horse starts to think backwards and backs up to get away from the rein pressure.
This course explains the shoulder-in, the aids for asking for this movement, and common errors made when doing a shoulder-in. Learn when and where to do a shoulder-in, the benefits of this exercises for both horse and rider, and a brief history of this movement.