Let’s get started. As you did when first teaching your horse to step his front end around in a pivot, work in a corner of your arena if pos¬sible. Note: in large, high-ceilinged barns you can often use an alleyway or aisle for the same purpose. If you’re later practicing spinning out on the trail, use whatever visual barriers are available—tree lines, bushes, creeks—to stay oriented and provide visual boundaries.
Start your spin in the corner. Don’t worry at all about speed at this point; correct form is what you’re after now, and you can build speed later. So go only as fast as you can control and maintain correct form.
I’ll break the cues down individually, but of course you apply them more or less simultaneously:
• Begin by closing both legs in neutral position to drive your horse forward toward one wall of the corner (because, remember, a spin is forward motion redirected around).
• Use your inside (direct) rein to tip your horse’s nose slightly in the direction of the turn. (That rein must not, however, pull his head into the turn.)
• Close your outside (indirect) rein on your horse’s neck, with a bit of backward pressure (that is, toward your belly button). Be sure not to cross this rein over his withers, however, or apply too much backward pressure to it, or your horse will counter-arc (bend away from the direction of the turn).
• With your outside leg, apply pressure at the cinch to help drive your horse’s front end across and into the spin.
If your horse resists moving off your outside leg and rein, stop turning and reinforce his understand¬ing of lateral movement by sidepassing him away from that same leg and rein. He should know how to do this from Essential 6: Moving Off Your Leg. If need be, review how to sidepass. As you do, be sure to “keep control of his face” (in other words, keep his jaw soft, his nose tipped, and his head properly posi¬tioned—not raised). After you get him “un-stuck,” return to the spin.
When you start, think in 180-degree increments. After the first 180 degrees of the spin, you have the two sides of the arena corner to help contain and guide your horse through the second 180. Keep going like this just a few times, then reverse all cues to initiate a spin in the opposite direction.
Almost from the beginning of learning spins, practice counting every revolution of the spin, so it becomes habitual; this way, you’ll never forget to do so at a show (when you must spin a set number of revo¬lutions—no more and no less). So, no matter how mar¬ginal your early spins are, as you come around to your starting place the first time, say, “That’s one.” The next time around, say, “That’s two.” And soon.
Sandy Collier’s successful horse show record is reflective of her dedication, talent, and integrity as a horse trainer. She was the first and only woman horse trainer to win the prestigious NRCHA World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity. In 2011, Sandy was inducted into The Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Learn more at SandyCollier.com.
This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 11