Both the “turn on the forehand” and the “turn about the forehand” are often used as the first foray into lateral work, as they are fairly simple to understand and perform.

After horse and rider have accomplished these movements, the natural progression is to go on to leg yield, then shoulder-in. However, there is a lot of controversy over the use of “turn on/about the forehand” so I will discuss the pros and cons later.

For a turn on the forehand to be successful, the horse’s front legs should describe a small circle, while his quarters will do a larger circle.

Benefits to the horse

    Teaches the horse to:

  • Move away from the leg
  • Be obedient to the aids, ie not moving forwards or backwards
  • It’s simple to understand and it’s a good introduction to lateral work
  • Helps to develop co-ordination and balance
  • Builds muscles and improves flexibility, especially in the back
  • Adds interest to the training programme

    Benefits to the rider

    A useful introduction to lateral work

  • Teaches rider co-ordination and helps develop feel
  • The rider learns how to use different parts of the body at the same time for different effects
  • Emphasises using the leg to move the horse, rather than the hand
  • It’s a slow movement so the rider has plenty of time to think it through
  • Another method of changing the rein, if done through 180 degrees
  • Useful for moving the horse around in a confined space, or out hacking when your horse tries to shy at something
  • It’s an essential technique for opening gates

    How the horse does it

    A turn on the forehand is where the horse turns around in his own length, on the spot, using the inside foreleg as the pivot. He should moveon two tracks and it is reasonable to ask for a quarter or half circle.

    The turn on the forehand should be done from halt, whereas the turn about the forehand is done from walk or trot as the back legs should maintain the same rhythm before, during and after it.

    For turn on the forehand the back legs should circle around the front legs, the inside hind crossing well over in front of the outside leg, moving around the inner leg, The horse should pick up and put down the inside front leg in the same place (or as near as possible). For the horse to be able to cross his inside hind leg in front of his outside hind, he has to arch his back, hence the suppling and strengthening effect of this exercise.

    For turn about the forehand, the forehand will do a tiny circle and the quarters will do a larger circle. The horse moves away from the bend – if the horse is bent to the left, the quarters move to the right.

    What can go wrong?

  • The horse walks forward
  • The horse walks backwards
  • There’s too much head and neck bend, allowing him to fall out through his shoulder or walk a circle out of the movement
  • Your horse loses his outline, sticks his nose in the air and generally resists and evades all your aids
  • The hindleg does not cross over in front of the other hindleg and your horse shuffles around in little steps
  • He runs away from the inside leg and spins around really quickly
  • Loss of impulsion or rhythm