Riding good corners is essential for several reasons, including keeping your horse “up” and off his forehand. That’s important for dressage but also for jumping and general schooling work.
In this article, we discuss how you can keep your horse “up” through the corners.
Why is it important to keep your horse “up” through corners?
Many riders allow their horses to cut corners, motorbiking and leaning in as they go.
If you allow your horse to fall through the corners he will tip onto his forehand, and you won’t be able to use the whole arena properly.
So, if you’re riding a dressage test, you may find that you’re short of space, which is a real problem if you’re riding a young horse or a very complicated test where every half-meter counts.
In showjumping competitions, the ability to keep your horse balanced and uphill through the corners will help prevent a fence down or a runout. It will also help you to shave valuable seconds off your times during jump-offs.
How deep should you ride the corner?
The first thing to understand is that you should not attempt to ride the corners deeper than your horse’s training level.
Riding deep corners doesn’t automatically mean that your horse will be more uphill. In fact, pushing for too much too soon will probably unbalance the horse even more.
So, if your horse is working at British Dressage Elementary level and is able to comfortably negotiate a 10-meter circle, you can make the corner the equivalent of a quarter of a 10-meter circle.
Basically, the more advanced the horse, the deeper the corner you can ride.
Why corners can make the horse more uphill
To ride a good corner, your horse will have to follow the correct uniform bend, remain moving on one track, keep a consistent rhythm, and understand a half-halt.
All those elements combine to bring the horse’s inside hind leg more underneath his body, which in turn lightens the horse’s shoulders, and makes his balance more uphill.
Related Read: How to Get Your Horse off His Forehand
How to keep your horse “up” through the corners
As you approach the corner, use a half-halt to balance your horse.
If your horse is young or struggles for balance, you may need to use a series of half-halts.
Keep your inside leg on the girth, and establish the correct bend through the horse’s body. Use your outside rein and outside leg to guard the horse’s outside shoulder and prevent the quarters from falling to the outside.
By establishing the correct bend and keeping the horse moving on one track, you will engage the horse’s inside hind leg, which will lift his shoulders and keep him “up” through the corner.
As you ride into and out of the corner, remember to keep riding forward! You need to keep the impulsion to maintain the rhythm and drive the horse’s inside leg underneath his body.
As you leave the corner and reach the long side, ride another half-halt to prevent the horse from losing his balance and falling onto his forehand.
It can also help ride the horse in a slight shoulder-fore position as you exit the corner.
Exercises to engage your horse through the corners
If you don’t have the correct bend and your horse isn’t on one track, you won’t be able to engage his inside hind leg.
Here are three exercises that can help.
You can ride this exercise in the walk, to begin with, progressing to trot and canter as your horse becomes more established and balanced.
- Take up a slight inside track on the long side as you approach the corner.
- Push your horse sideways in leg-yield so that you ride deep into the corner, maintaining the inside bend as you go.
- Keep your inside leg on the girth to create the bend. Use your outside leg to prevent the quarters from swinging out. Use your outside rein to prevent the horse from sliding out through the shoulder, and be sure that you don’t have too much neck bend.
- Ride your horse forward and keep the same rhythm and tempo on the approach to the corner, and as you ride through it.
This exercise prevents the horse from cutting the corner and helps to develop more engagement and uphill balance.
- Establish a good, energetic working trot and go large around the arena.
- As you approach the corner, ride a smooth transition to walk, pushing your horse deep into the corner.
- Imagine that your horse is bent through his body at a right angle so that he has his forehand on the short side and his body on the long side.
- As you leave the corner, make a transition back into working trot.
This exercise helps to keep the horse’s hind leg engaged as you ride through and out of the corner.
- On the long side just before the corner, put the horse into a slight shoulder-fore position.
- Keep your leg on and maintain the shoulder-fore position through the corner.
- As you ride out of the corner, make the horse straight again.
- Ride forward into a medium trot down the long side.
You can ride this exercise in trot and canter.
Keeping your horse “up” through the corners helps your horse to keep his balance, helps to bring his inside hind leg more underneath him, and helps you to use the whole arena properly.
You can keep your horse “up” and off his forehand as you ride through the corners of the arena by using the exercises above to create more engagement.
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