Tap the top of the horse ’ s left hind leg / back of the rib cage and train your horse to take frequent steps with their left hind leg as they are pivoting . This will help balance your pivot turn and make it easier for the horse to keep their pivot foot planted .
After your horse has mastered the pivot turn , work on balancing and closing your horse ’ s pivot without your horse taking an overstep . Tap the outside shoulder with the stick and bump the halter upward and toward you as you back up . The horse will learn to move their right front leg and place it carefully , resulting in correcting the common ‘ overstep ’ error .
Be sure to spend plenty of time standing still in your pivot position with the stick elevated . Rub your horse ’ s shoulder with the training stick while you are holding still to reassure the stick is just an extension of your arm . This will teach the horse to be confident in your training tools , and to also wait on your body language cues before they move their bodies . should be able to keep your right-hand stationery by your horse ’ s muzzle and never feel the weight of his face in your hands . He will fluidly cross his right front leg over his left front leg as he circles , and his right hind foot will stay planted in the ground .
Once your horse graduates to using a traditional under the chin chain , as you ’ re pivoting around , lightly pull / bump your hand in an upward / forward and upward / backward motion to cue your horse ’ s feet accordingly . Slowly minimize these pressure cues over time with the rope halter first , then the chain second . The goal of Showmanship is to make cueing your horse look invisible and effortless .
The Next Level : Balance Your Horse ’ s Spin
When your horse has mastered the pivot , it ’ s time to add the final aspect of balance and increased speed to the pivot turn . The left hind leg is the last “ button ” that needs to be established in a pivot exercise . Often , horses will pivot well , but their left hind leg drags around them , creating a sloppy and heavy picture . You want the same quality and lift in the left hind leg as you have in the left front leg .
As you ’ re pivoting around , begin to teach your horse to move his left hind leg around his body each time his left front leg crosses over the right front . This will prevent him from leaning the left side of his body as he ’ s pivoting and create a perfectly balanced , crisp looking turn .
Begin your pivot turn as you normally would tapping the horse ’ s shoulder , then lightly tap the top of your horse ’ s left hind leg to encourage his left leg to step up as he ’ s pivoting . At first , your horse may jump sideways or lose his pivot . Expect him to be confused . When this happens , immediately bump the rope halter upward and forward to rebalance your horse ’ s body during the pivot . Stay consistent and be patient . Over a few days , your horse will naturally begin to move his left hind leg around and underneath his body resulting in a pivot turn that ’ s lifted , balanced , and sure to catch the judge ’ s eye .
Once you have the left hind leg “ button ” established , this is also greatly beneficial and a key component to perfecting your hola hoop maneuver in a Halter Obstacle class . The horse is learning how to take small , compact steps underneath his body .
BONUS TIP : Balancing the Shoulder Once your horse is pivoting consistently and has lift throughout his entire body , the last aspect of pivoting is “ closing ” the turn . Closing means you want to train the horse to stop straight and ideally set up their feet on their own once you stop moving . To perfect this , when you stop your motion , practice going into your Inspection Position and squaring your horse ’ s feet up , then proceed to walk forward .
If your horse has a habit of dropping their outside shoulder and taking an extra step after you stop the motion of the pivot turn , lightly bump the halter upward and toward you and start walking backward in your pivot position . Use the training stick on the outside shoulder . This will teach your horse to execute a “ pull turn ” over time and will refine their front foot steps , so they do not overstep when completing a pivot turn . Pull turn the horse one to two steps , then immediately walk forward .
With practice , you and your Miniature will accomplish this polished maneuver allowing you to showcase your new skills in the show ring with more success in Showmanship and Obstacle classes .
Lana Grieve of Star Point Horsemanship is an AMHA , PtHA and APHA World Champion and International Training Coach . Find her training DVDS , halters and free training videos on YouTube , Facebook , Instagram , and by visiting www . starpointhorsemanship . com