From the circle-turn exercises, it is an easy transition to teach your horse the spin. At this point, your horse has learned to follow his nose, driving from his hindquarters while crossing over his front legs without interference in the turn. Because of this solid foundation, your horse now only needs to develop his carriage and hold his frame during consecutive revolutions in order to spin with proficiency.
The corner drill helps to guide your horse through a complete 360-degree turn, based on his aptitude for rolling back into the fence. Since he already is comfortable with turning toward the fence or wall, your horse should take to this new concept pretty quickly.
As in the previous exercise, you jog a 15-foot circle, only this time the circle is placed in the corner of the arena. When your horse is in the corner pocket between both fences, you sit down, soften your body, and move him into an inside turn, as you did in the previous drill. Your horse turns away from the wall to the inside of the circle. Once he completes the half-turn and with the arena fence now opposing you, it might seem that your horse has no place to go. However, your horse’s familiarity with roll¬ing through a turn and into the fence allows you to encourage him to drive on, sweeping through the rest of the turn for a full 360-degree revolution.
As your horse becomes confident, moving through the turnaround with softness and ease, you can ask for a second and third revolution. Do not rush into asking for six, seven or eight spins, however. Be happy with one or two spins performed well, with your horse maintaining a willing, unspoiled attitude, and build from there.
When your horse can spin pleasantly with balance and cadence in the corner, you can move the exercise a distance from the wall to work in the open. Be compassionate in teaching the turnaround, as it requires coordination, strength, and stamina unlike any other skill. You can sour a horse to spinning by fatiguing him, so it is of great importance not to overwork your horse. Aside from mentally ruining him to the turnaround, if he’s worked to a point of muscular exhaustion, the risk of injury also increases.
For your horse to be his best, he must like what he’s doing and find his efforts rewarded. If he turns a few times with fast, light feet and good form in the hackamore, quit him then and there. He soon learns that giving his all earns rest faster than making poor efforts repeatedly.
Also remember that each horse has an inborn level of talent to utilize, with some having light feet governed by fast-twitch muscles while other horses are lumbering and awkward. Work within the ability level of each animal you ride without asking him to be something that he cannot be.
It takes a special horse to end up with an awesome “40-plait-style” spin, and those who do have buzz-saw turns are born with that ability for their trainers to unleash. Most horses are far less fancy, some even as unrefined as a rugged eight-plait braid, and need to be taught how to spin with great patience. It is key to be realistic and fair with training goals, as these less talented horses can unravel when pressured to move in ways that are physically impossible for them. Instead, aim to lighten a heavy “eight-plait” spinner into a functional, working “12-plait” tool, and, just maybe, with the extra patience and time, he might surprise you by being a little better than expected in the end.
Learn more in Al’s book – The Art of Hackamore Training: A Time-Honored Step in the Bridle-Horse Tradition.
Al Dunning is credited with 32 world-championship and reserve-championship titles. The knowledge and passion he shares in his clinics, videos, and lessons have molded not only average students, but also some of today’s most successful professional horse trainers. Dunning’s ability to reach people comes from his love of horses and out of respect to the mentors in his own life. For more information go to www.AlDunning.com
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 10