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How to Get Your Horse off His Forehand

How to Get Your Horse off his Forehand how to Dressage


The judge’s comment, ‘on the forehand’ is often seen on dressage test sheets.

But what does ‘on the forehand’ mean, and how do you correct the fault?

Read on to find out more.

What does, ‘on the forehand’ mean?

When a horse is said to be, ‘on the forehand’ it means that the overall impression to the onlooker is that the majority of the weight is being carried on the horse’s shoulders and front half.

Another remark that means the same thing is, ‘could be more uphill’.  This nicely illustrates what the dressage judge is looking for, i.e. that the horse appears to be moving literally up a hill, with more of his weight on his hindquarters than on his forehand.

A horse that is on his forehand will struggle for balance in the downward transitions, will lose his balance and rhythm in the medium and extended paces, and may become crooked as he struggles to keep himself and his rider balanced in the canterwork.

When a horse is on his forehand, he may fall in through the corners of the arena, and his lateral work will lack fluency and self-carriage.

How to get your horse off his forehand

Before you set about correcting this fault, it’s important to understand that the horse must be physically muscular and strong enough to be able to take the weight back onto his hindquarters.

Young and inexperienced horses are very often ‘on the forehand’ at the beginning of their dressage careers, and it takes systematic and correct training over time to correct this.

Transitions between the paces and within them can help to engage the horse’s hind legs and transfer his balance to his hindquarters.

Working on transitions around a circle will also serve to bring his inside hind leg more underneath him.

Lateral exercises such as leg yielding and shoulder-in are useful in engaging the hind legs.  These can be combined with transitions for maximum effect.

If your horse tends to lose his balance onto his forehand through the transitions, try riding a few steps of shoulder-in as you approach the transition.  Remember to keep your leg on, so that the horse doesn’t lose impulsion as he makes the transition.

You actually need more impulsion for a downward transition than for an upward one, in order to keep the hind leg traveling forward and underneath the horse to balance him as he makes the ‘gear change’ down.

Related Read: How to Ride a Forwards Downward Transition

Once your horse has begun to develop better engagement and is lighter in the forehand, you’ll need to work on maintaining this balance and frame throughout a whole dressage test.

You can do this by using half-halts to re-balance your horse before every transition, change of direction, or lateral movement.

Related Read: How to Ride a Half-Halt

In conclusion

A horse that is inclined to work on his forehand will be unbalanced through the transitions and will find negotiating small circles and turns difficult.

Work on developing the engagement of the hindquarters to improve the horse’s self-carriage, and you’ll finish up with a much nicer ride and higher scores in your dressage tests too!

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