Horsemanship patterns these days are like a journey from one challenge to the next – after extended gaits you have to perform a perfect and fast turn and a flying lead change afterwards. There is hardly time to “rest” during the pattern, because even the lines are not only circles or straight lines anymore: Since quite a few years square corners are often a standard part of horsemanship and showmanship patters. Requiring perfect control over the horse’s body and a well seated rider, square corners have become to be an element as challenging as a turn or lead change. In order to help everyone who is practicing horsemanship at home, we have asked two of Europe’s top trainers and a Congress Champion in Horsemanship for their advice.
Jadasa Jablonowksi; picture: private
Jadasa Jablonowski (German, European and Congress Champion): I do square corners even with young horses, since it is a great way to train their shoulder and strengthen their balance. If they learn it at a young age, the won’t have problems as older allround horses. My advice would be to start to move the shoulder in a forward motion at the walk. To make it more challenging do the same thing at the jog and the extended jog. The horse should be bent to the inside and it is very important to maintain that position in order to prevent the shoulder from dropping down.
Stefanie Bubenzer; picture: Art’n’Light (Corrie Fuhr)
Stefanie Bubenzer (DQHA&AQHA Professional Horsewoman, European Champion): You should really focuss on maintaining the same rhythm you had before the corner while you ride the corner. Stay in harmony with your horse’s movement, don’t rush or delay any commands. A common mistake is not using the inside leg enough which makes the horse drop the shoulder and bend to the outside. Try to do proper neck reining, don’t move your hand over to the other side of the neck! This requires a broke horse that gives away to the outside rein and follows the inside rein. Another important thing is to sit properly. While doing the corner the rider should turn the upper part of the body into the direction of motion without bending the hip too much.
Hannah Friedl, picture: private
Hannah Friedl (Congress Champion Nov. Am. Horsemanship): While you ride the corner try to activate the horse’s hind quarters as much as in the turn. Try to focus on the 90 degrees of the corner, don’t think of riding a curve, think of a corner! During practice – don’t overdo it in one or the other direction, you don’t want to annoy the horse. Plus, horses are smart and will know what kind of maneuver you are asking for after a doing corners for a while. What I do to prevent the horse from anticipating the corner is stopping and then doing the 90 degree turn. That also helps the horse to understand that only the front legs should move when performing the corner. Don’t just pull over, because if you do the horse will bend to the outside. To avoid this carefully use your second hand when starting the corner and bend the horse to the inside when you practice. I would recommend to start at the slower gaits, then do the extended trot and the lope. If you have a horse that is not completely horsemanship-broke, don’t force the corner and pull the rein over in a rough manner. Rather try to ride a curve that is as corner-like as possible, but looks decent and does not break the harmony between rider and horse. Regarding your seat, look in the direction of the motion, but don’t “thrown” yourself into that direction. Make it look smooth, look in the direction in a natural way, don’t rotate your head by 90 degrees. Sounds easier than it is – I know that, because that was my problem!
Thank you so much for your advice!