Turn on the forehand is an excellent exercise for horse and rider and it's easy when you know how. Amanda Brewer explains:
Turn on the forehand is a slow-moving exercise which allows you time to think about your aids and also to feel what your horse is doing. A well-performed turn on the forehand gives you an excellent foundation for more advanced riding, especially lateral work.
It's also a loosening and suppling exercise for your horse, helping relieve tension in the back and preparing him for rein back. The horse has to stretch and contract the muscles in his body to lift his middle point and round his back in order for him to cross the inside leg in front of the outside leg. Turn on the forehand prepares the horse for lateral work, the first exercise of which is often leg yielding (this will be covered in the next issue).
In turn on the forehand, the horse turns on the spot with his hindlegs moving around his forehand. The idea is to complete a 180°° turn and you should end up facing in the opposite direction. Your horse should pivot around the inside foreleg which should mark time (picked up and returned to the same spot, or near it), not be screwed into the ground! The outside foreleg moves very slightly forward and the hindlegs move in an arc around the forehand - the inside hindleg crosses in front of the outside hindleg. In order to do this, the horse has to raise and arch his back to enable him to lift and cross the inside hindleg. During the turn, do not allow your horse to fall sideways or run back or forwards.
It's easy to get confused about which direction to go when your instructor asks for a turn on the forehand to the right. Remember this simple rule to make sure you get it right every time:
A turn on the forehand to the right is when the horse is flexed to the right and his quarters move to the left. A turn to the left is where the horse's flexion is left but his quarters move to the right.
To ride a turn on the forehand to the left, walking on the right rein, halt off the track, not too close to the wall. Don't forget to plan the halt well in advance, make sure it is square and straight. Your horse will not be able to do a proper turn from a crooked halt or if he is bent to the right.
Put a little more weight on the left seat bone and slightly shorten the left rein - your horse's head should then be turned slightly to the left.
Use your left leg just behind the girth and push the hindleg, step by step, around the forehand until the turn is complete. It's easy to tilt your body and collapse to one side (see step four), so try to sit up.
The right rein stops too much flexion to the left and has a slight restraining action to prevent your horse from moving forward.
Keep your right leg at the girth ready to prevent him continuing to turn once the turn is completed and be ready to use both legs to ride the horse forward when it is finished. The right leg can also be used in a more forward position, near the shoulder to control the shoulders. Take care with the right leg - if you use it at the same time as the inside leg, you will be giving a forward driving aid! As you complete the turn, your left rein becomes the new inside rein and your right rein will now be on the outside.
The turn is executed mostly by weight and leg aids while the hands keep a smooth contact. So go and experiment - practise on hacks and try opening a few gates this way.
If I am teaching a young horse turn on the forehand for the first time, I stop him after each crossing of the hindlegs and praise him. I keep going until the turn has been completed.