Classical Riding Tips: The turn on the haunches

by Nancy O'Neill (aka M'Lady Violante d'Osteriche)

Shall We Dance? The turn on the haunches
Can horses turn in place? What if you’re stuck on a narrow trail and need to turn around? What if you want to participate in the period dance classes and need to turn around without clobbering the horses around you?

Turn on the haunches is a foundation movement. Foundation in that for the horse, it helps develop the hind muscle grouping and tempo of movement with utilizing the *lightness of the forehand*. For the rider, it utilizes the coordination of seat, hands, legs. Once mastered and further into your training, you will use similar command for a canter pirouette.
Foundation principle...perfect practice makes perfect.

How to practice a turn on the haunches

  1. From the halt: sit in classic position, heels, hips, shoulders in straight line, back straight and supple (do not arch, stiffen or otherwise lock your lower back!), pick direction you want to turn (we’ll go to the right here, outside hand stays closed in halt position (this will be the left hand), inside hand (right) will flex open and close or if need be very gently guide to right (try not to pull or yank, should not move hand more than 2” towards your belly) .
  2. With your seat: look the direction you want to go, if you can close your eyes and feel this, you will notice that your seat should “twist” towards the right, left side of pelvis pushing forward, right side pushing backwards. Even pressure.
  3. With your outside leg (left) close your whole leg, pelvis to heel (make sure your heel stays DOWN, foot forward), think about closing your leg “around” your inside leg. Your inside leg (right) will stay down and stationary. Remember to sit UP and not lean forward (you will get a turn on the forehand if you do that!).
  4. Now, if you have done everything correctly, your horse should “walk” his front legs around his back that the back legs only move in the size of a large platter. If your horse fusses with his head, check your hands. If it falls to the outside, check your inside leg is still, outside leg is closing consistently.  Once you have the movement correctly, strive for regularity, rhythm. Try it to music, nice 4/4 tempo.

“A dancer really dances well when he does so with enthusiasm and not when he is forced to perform.” Xenophon

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