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Training haunches-in vs pirouette - probably a silly question

Hi! For fun and to get my boy going off of my leg and using his body more, I tried to teach him to pirouette and half-pass today (feel free to tell me if I’m using improper terms, I’m not a dressage rider). Basically, I brought him face up to a wall, opened my left rein, and pushed him over with my right leg. I was able to achieve a few steps but he wasnt thrilled. Then I brought him to a corner (butt facing corner) and opened up my left while pushing withh my right foot. Again, I was able to get a few pirouette steps (turn on haunches - he can do it when I lead from the ground) but he didn’t tottally get it or like it. Anyway, my question is with both of these moves, I ultimatley was giving him the same cue. That means if I left the wall or corner, he wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the two requests. So how do I make them unique? Like I said, this is probably a silly question but oh well, it’s mine

There are 2 different categories of lateral move in dressage.

The first set involve the horse being bent away from the direction of travel. This includes shoulder in and reverse shoulder in on curves, diagonal, and straight line. These build off turn on the forehand. These moves are taught first. They can be done walk trot and canter. The shoulder in is performed at a trot in dressage tests.

The second set involves the horse being bent toward the direction of travel. This set starts with haunches in, then progresses to half pass and pirouette. These are always taught after the first set are fairly competent. Again, they can be done at walk trot and canter. The half pass is done in competition at trot and canter, the pirouette at canter.

As to how the horse learns to distinguish, by the time a horse is working on the second set of moves, the horse is generally quite alert to weight aids.

The horse starts learning lateral moves through a very modest shoulder fore move and then typically a leg yield back to the wall, which can easily be transitioned into shoulder in on a diagonal.

When I’ve been riding a well trained dressage horse, I can do a haunches in up the long side and then get a half pass off the rail by shifting my weight.

Anyhow, the dressage moves are built up slowly in large part to create the balance and attention to the aids that allow the horse and rider to develop a subtle shared language.

Interestingly, Western trainers are more likely to teach roll back and spin by running horses towards a wall.

Anyhow, if you are interested in lateral work on would suggest starting with shoulder fore, and basic leg yield. From there go to shoulder in. When you have a good trot shoulder in, you can start haunches in at the walk.


Thank you for all the information! I’ll look up some videos on shoulder fore for our next ride!

Ditto! Leg yield is the place to start. It has no bend - you’re just teaching the horse that he can move forwards and sideways at the same time. And you should be able to control how much forward and how much sideways, so you can make a very shallow line or a more steep line.

Lots of horses naturally want to drift towards the wall, so you can use this to your advantage. Turn early, up the quarter line, and then use your inside leg to push your horse out to the wall. Every few times, turn up the quarter line but stay straight all the way to the other end to avoid anticipating.

From there, shoulder-fore is your next step.


Great! Thank you!

I will start with: PLEASE someone double check this. To differentiate: In the walk turn on the haunches, you are turning the shoulders around the haunches. Its as if you make two sizes of circle - larger for shoulders, smaller for haunches. Your leg pressure and lightly turning seat (pressure from outside thigh) move him around your inside leg. Your outside rein tells him to turn and not move forward. Opening inside rein gives him somewhere to go but be careful he doesnt fall on to the inside shoulder. A correct ToH keeps the hind legs stepping. If you get it too tight for his level of understanding he will either step out with the outside hind or plant a foot. A walk pirouette has the hinds stepping in place while the forehand moves around. It’s really hard, and advanced…
On the other hand, a half pass is pretty much jsut haunches in on a diagonal line. there is a forward-motion aspect. Start on a straight line on the rail and move the haunches in with an outside leg and remember to keep your inside seatbone weighted. Your inside leg and outside hip(seat) encourages the forward movement.
But indeed as stated above start with the simple basic lateral movements of leg yielding and slight shoulder-fore (baby shoulder in, sort of, some will argue its not a lateral movement… whatever) and moving on to shoulder in and haunches in. Shoulder in should have three tracks - inside hind steps into the print of outside fore. A correct haunches in EVENTUALLY has four tracks, but start small.


Also keep in mind you don’t really teach these things, like they are tricks. You teach and train the aids, which allow you to ride the horse in a way that they have to carry themselves in a certain way, like shoulder in.

Work on moving off the leg, acceptance into the bridle and your weight aids, and you will be able to ride these movements with a bit of practice.


To add to what the others said, turn on the haunches is basically haunches in on a very small circle.

Once you have a reliable haunches in on a straight line, you can do haunches in on acircle, then on a smaller circle, and so on. Once the circle gets small enough, you have a turn on the haunches.

BUT you and the horse should be consistent in leg yield, shoulder fore, and shoulder in, before you start on haunches in.


Thanks everyone!