Improving turns and circles using a small balance exercise

Repo turn
An ex-racehorse Nordic Run learning to turn in balance. You can see the rider here keeping her weight dropped through her outside thigh and shoulder to help him do the same. He is still leaning a little too much to the inside but few weeks ago he struggled with any response to the left leg so this is a fabulous result for him 🙂

If you have problems with balanced turns and your horse often cuts the corners or decreases the circles as if some magical forces drew him in, you might find the below tips useful.

Pre-requisite exercises: 

1) leg-yield (for the below exercise to be helpful your horse needs to be familiar with leg-yielding on both reins even if it’s just a few steps yield with limited cross over. They don’t need to be able to be performing dressage test standard leg-yield but need to know what it means to yield away from your inside leg when you ask)

2) Lateral flexion at the poll to the left and right (your horse needs to understand how to react when you ask for flexion left and right. They can’t think you are asking for neck bend or a turn)

The Exercise 

(described on the right rein)

Ride down 3/4 line of the arena and prepare to ask the horse for the right turn on a line of a half 15m ish circle. To do so, ask for inside flexion at the poll. When the have horse responded, ask for the turn. As your horse moves his inside front leg to turn, ask him to drift away from your inside leg as if asking for a mini leg-yield.

You want to feel that:

– he shifts his his weight ever so slightly to his outside shoulder, lightens the inside one and slightly curves his neck to the inside.

– you ground/anchor him to his outside shoulder

– your torso stays, what might feel like, on the outside of your horse’s neck (not leaning to the inside)

Repeat those leg-yield/drifty turns until you get your head around riding the horse’s balance a little towards his outside shoulder as he turns and you feel that you are able to ask with your inside leg for his inside hind leg to step deeper under his barrel.

Once you can do these turns with a small drift (think of increasing the circle a couple of meters, no massive leg – yields until the end of the world 😉 ) then try to only use the ability to shift your horse’s weight off his inside shoulder and onto his outside one as he turns. 

As he does it, continue on your turn with no drift/leg-yield.


Lighter inside shoulder allows for an easy, relaxed inside flexion and vice – versa. Ability to shift your horse’s weight laterally will help you in many situations, not only to ride better corners and circles but also to approach the jumps in better balance 🙂

Hope this is helpful – happy training 🙂


4 thoughts on “Improving turns and circles using a small balance exercise”

  1. Thank you for this, I think it is something I will work on with my 5 year old… but not quite yet. I was wondering if you could help us with any schooling tips and/or exercises before we get to that stage.

    He understands leg yield and flexion left and right but really struggles with flexion to the inside when in trot, on the right rein – he is ok in walk. He bends his neck and head to the outside on the right rein and therefore cuts corners and falls in on circles. He totally ignores my inside leg at this time so opening my inside hand just makes him turn / veer off to the right. Leg yielding, turns on the forehand etc are things he knows and responds well to.

    He is usually a very willing to please horse so I don’t think he is being naughty. He has had his back, teeth and saddle checked and is the same on the lunge and with a rider. Any help would be hugely appreciated!

    1. Hey Bryony, this exercise should be perfect for him, don’t worry if at first he just turn. It’s the rider who needs to figure out how to ask and you will eventually. Start by asking for inside flexion, if then he starts turning, lift both reins up a little (without pulling), sit deeper on the outside seat bone and drift him off the inside shoulder a little. You can use a tap on the shoulder with a short whip as long as he is not afraid of it. Take it slow. What’s your email address? I will email you a link to a video showing me doing this exercise with a very stiff, young horse who is learning it and has similar responses to yours 🙂

    2. P.S. Just realised your email shows up under your comment, if you would like me to email you a video link let me know 🙂 I don’t want to spam you without consent 😉

      1. Yes please! A video would be really useful. Thank you, we’ll give this a go then and see how we get on 😊

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