Have you been asked to do a turn on the forehand or a turn on the haunches and instead of getting right to it, you have to sit there and figure out what it is you’re supposed to do? There seems to be quite a bit of confusion out there on how to do the turns and most of the confusion is not the technical part of how to execute them, but the language itself. Which way to go and which part of the horse moves! Here is a break down of the process that will hopefully clear it all up!
Let’s address the language first, because it doesn’t matter how nice your turn is, if you go the wrong way or move the wrong part of the horse! The first thing I tell my students when working on the turns: “They are named according to which part of the horse stays in place. Not which part of the horse moves!” So, on a turn on the forehand TOF, the haunches move and on a turn on the haunches TOH, the forehand moves. You might say “Duh” but it’s easy to focus on which part you are actually moving and associate this with the name of the movement. This is straight memorization. I tell my students to say it out loud each time they do a TOF/TOH until the name and the movement are synchronized. This is the easy part. Where to go, left or right, is actually more discombobulating to a lot of people and I’m not just talking about getting right and left mixed up, but again different interpretation to the language used. On a TOF left you are pushing with your right leg to move the haunches left, so some people think that this is a TOF right. But this time you have to think about which part is moving and in which direction. So, on a TOF left, the forehand stays in place and the haunches move to the left! On a TOH left, the haunches stay in place and the forehand moves left. So, to summarize:
The turns are named after which part of the horse stays in place and the direction (left or right) is decided by which way the moving part goes!
Now that this is clear as mud, we can move on to performing the actual movement.
Turn on the forehand TOF:
This is the easier of the two movements. You are simply asking your horse to move away from the pressure applied, something most horse learn long before you ever get on (again, right leg pressure means haunches move left and you are doing a TOF left). Let’s stay with the TOF left. You come to a square stop, then ask for a little bit of flexion at the poll to the right (horse looks right), then apply right leg while keeping your hands closed to keep forehand in place and move the haunches to the left! There should be no bend in either the horse’s body or the neck and the turn should be fluid and resistance free with the front feet staying basically in the same spot.
Turn on the haunches TOH:
This is the harder turn of the two, as it needs at least a certain degree of engagement of the haunches. You have to be able to rebalance your horse towards his hind end in order to perform this movement correctly. For more information on rebalancing your horse you can read my previous blog on “Collection”. A horse that is on the forehand will likely have to swing his haunches out for balance or turn on the middle instead of on the haunches. Let’s do TOH left: after having rebalanced your horse with more weight on the haunches, ask for flexion left (this time your horse looks into the direction he is moving) and apply leg to move the forehand left. Use your inside (left) leg for bend and use your outside (right) leg to keep the haunches from swinging out. Your right rein guides the horse’s shoulders. Again the horse should move fluid and resistance free, but this time there should be a slight bend in body and neck and you have about the size of a dinner plate to do your turn on! Any straightening or hollowing of your horse’s body will result in loss of fluidity and balance.
One more hint for showing the half TOF to full TOH. This should be one fluid movement. Both the moving parts start out towards the rail and the momentum continues in the same direction. Don’t get confused because it says TOF left to TOH right. If you were to do a TOF left and then a TOH left the momentum changes direction and it would not feel fluid. If you pause too long after the TOF you might not notice this. Try it at home and you’ll see, one just doesn’t feel right!