#SundaySchool: perfecting pirouettes with Rebecca Hughes

  • The international dressage rider and young horse producer (pictured) explains how walk pirouettes can improve engagement for medium trot


    This exercise is great for hotter horses as it means the rider is able to ride forward from the walk pirouette, which, in itself, is a collecting movement. It is also helpful if your horse is lazy in the hindlegs, as he learns to pick his hindlegs up and down underneath his body when performing the walk pirouette correctly. The idea behind this exercise is that the smaller the walk pirouette, the more engaged the hindleg.

    One of the advantages of doing the walk pirouettes on the long side is that it helps the rider understand how small the pirouette needs to be.

    Very often, when you see someone doing a walk pirouette in the middle of the arena, because they don’t have a wall to help them, the pirouettes are too large and, therefore, it doesn’t engage the hindleg correctly.

    This exercise also teaches the horse to push and engage with the transition into medium trot after the walk pirouette.


    1. Start the exercise by riding down the long side of the arena in working trot.

    2. Ask for a transition to walk before the corner and perform half a walk pirouette. Make sure you put the horse into shoulder-fore position before the walk pirouette. In a shoulder-fore position, the outside foreleg is already leading the way towards the inside bend. For instance, if you are doing a walk pirouette to the left, the right fore has to cross over the left foreleg.

    3. Immediately after completing the half walk pirouette, once straight, make a transition into medium trot. Use the walk pirouette to engage the inside hindleg straight into the transition to medium trot down the long side.

    4. Ride medium trot down the long side, then make a transition to walk before
    the corner and ask for another half walk pirouette in the other direction. This puts the horse back on the hindleg. Then immediately asks him to push off again, so he is pushing and sitting.

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    5. Repeat the exercise, ensuring you take plenty of breaks.

    Tips and pitfalls

    If your horse isn’t good at medium trot, go into rising rather than sitting trot until you can establish a rhythm.

    In the walk pirouette, you need to learn to keep turning the front, rather than keeping the back in place.

    By performing the walk pirouette against the wall, any rider who pushes the hindlegs to the inside will automatically realise how far away from the wall they are at the end.

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday.

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