A dynamic, judge-pleasing spin is performed on a loose rein, with the horse’s nose tipped slightly in the direction of the turn. The horse is “hunting” the spin— meaning he’s doing it willingly—and his neck is low. His outside front foot crosses over his inside front, and he steps rapidly, smoothly, and with cadence. He pivots on his inside hind foot (although both hind feet can move within a small area without penalty). At the end, he stops right on the mark, without losing balance or requiring excessive help from his rider.
The best way to think of a spin is forward motion redirected around. You step your horse forward into a spin, which helps him differentiate cues from those that ask for a backup or a roll-back. Stepping forward into the spin also reinforces that you want him to “drive” into the spin, with his shoulders upright and even. Ultimately, you should be able to ask your horse to speed up his spin with a “cluck,” and he should remain in the spin without visible cueing from you until you say “Whoa.”
To set the stage for spinning, you worked on getting your horse to step his front end around by drawing a circle tighter and then stepping across. Now, you start building speed as you add more control, cadence, and precision.
First I’ll share an easy way to get a correct spin started. Then, I’ll give you an exercise for improving your spins, plus offer some troubleshooting tips.
There are two more exercises: one that helps build cadence—Trot into the Spin—and an advanced exercise—Counter-Arc with the Spin—that will improve the straightness of your horse’s body and the levelness of his neck.
Three important caveats before you get started. First, before your horse is in the bridle, think in terms of starting your spin with the inside (direct) rein, and speeding it up with your outside (indirect) rein and, if necessary, your outside leg, rather than dragging your horse around with your inside rein – an extremely common mistake.
Second, if your horse isn’t spinning properly, it’s usually because he’s not moving off—you guessed it—your outside rein and leg! When this happens, don’t just go “faster, wrong.” Instead, stop and fix what isn’t.
And third, never punish your horse during a spin. If something goes wrong, stop and fix what isn’t working, then return to the spin, letting him turn and not forcing or intimidating him into it. This is essential if you want to make sure the spin never becomes something he dreads and tries to “hide” from. An ounce of prevention is worth a backhoe’s ton of cure, here.
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 10