"The quarter turn is the gateway
to lateral work", states Violet Hopkins, the founder of the United States Dressage Federation's Instructor Seminars. As a
stepping stone to lateral work, the quarter turn is not widely practiced. This article has been written to share with readers
this valuable movement not only for riders, but for horses as well.
Essentially, the quarter turn
is a 90-degree turn. The rider signals the horse to turn from the haunches off a straight line onto another straight line.
Usually, quarter turns are performed from the long side of the arena across to the other side.
When the correct aids are applied,
a quarter turn is easy for a horse to do. The rider doing the quarter turn for the first time requires a few tries before
he does it correctly.
It is best for rider and horse
to learn the quarter turn from a walk, later at sitting trot. The aids for a quarter turn are: outside leg back to turn the
horse in and control the haunches, inside leg at the girth to maintain rhythm and balance, and a firm contact with the outside
rein to keep the horse from falling in on the turn. The inside rein helps to keep the horse's flexion at the poll for submission
to the bit. It is not used for turning. With the aids in mind and the horse walking straight along the rail, I ask the rider
to do a quarter turn by bringing the inside shoulder slightly back and the outside leg back.
Often, when riders are just learning
the quarter turn, I ask them to drop the inside rein so they learn to turn the horse from the outside rein. However, as with
all correctly performed movements, both hands should keep their necessary individual contact. Also, the rider must not lean
into the turn, but keep the torso erect and balanced over the center of the horse's back. If a rider continues to use the
inside rein to quarter turn the horse, I ask him to bring the hand towards the horse's mouth about one to two inches to put
slack into the rein. The student then learns that indeed the horse can be turned using the outside aids.
While performing quarter turns
if the rider has no outside rein, he cannot keep the horse traveling on straight lines. Additionally, contact with the outside
rein is essential for balancing the horse, keeping the horse from falling in or leaning, controlling the rhythm and speed,
creating circles and their size, and maintaining straightness in the horse.
Teaching the Aid Coordination
In doing quarter turns, the rider
learns the importance of the inside leg and outside rein to keep the horse balanced and straight. For example, if a rider
asked the horse for a quarter turn and the inside leg is not in contact with the barrel, instead of tracking from one straight
line to another, the horse will continue to turn in the direction the rider's outside leg asks it to, that is, to the inside.
When the rider keeps the inside
leg on the barrel and maintains contact with the outside rein, he learns how the horse becomes balanced with the rider. Once
horse and rider do quarter turns at a walk, doing them at a sitting trot is another good exercise for both. Often the intermediate
rider finds it difficult to coordinate the aids during a sitting trot. Doing quarter turns helps him to learn faster because
the aids have to be coordinated.
Get the full benefit
of Quarter Turns
not only teach riders the value of coordinating the aids and what the individual accomplish; quarter turns are also a good
training exercise for the horse. I teach green horses quarter turns in order for them to learn that the leg aid
does not only mean to go forward, but to go sideways as well. Usually, riders teach the turn on the forehand for this education,
but I prefer the quarter turn, because it is a forward flowing movement and demands more of the horse gymnastically.
help to correct a horse that leans and/or falls in going in a particular direction on straight lines and circles.
For a horse that leans, doing quarter turns will develop balance and strength on the inside hind leg that the horse falls
in on. The rider learns to hold the outside rein to keep the horse from falling in or leaning.
can be used to improve transitions, canter departs, and help the horse to accept a contact with the outside rein.
No outside rein, no quarter turn.
can be done to help a canter to trot transition. To improve a horse that leans into transitions, especially from
the trot to walk, ask the horse for a quarter turn, and at the same moment ask for a downward transition. Because of the action
of the quarter turn, the horse steps into the transition rather than falling forward.
turns can help to make a canter depart more precise and accurate. As you ask the horse to do a quarter turn,
at the same time ask him to strike off into a canter. If done correctly, not only do both these exercises improve the horse's
training, but the rider's aids coordination as well. When the rider begins 10-meter circles, a movement used to train lateral
work, I ask him to think quarter turn, especially at the canter, because this gets him circling from the outside aids and
keeps the horse balanced on its hindquarters.