4 Things you can do when the inside hind leg pivots in Turns on the Haunches

One problem I see in many riding lessons is that horses pivot with their inside hind leg in a turn on the haunches. In dressage, this is considered a mistake because the footfall sequence of the walk is interrupted, if only three legs are moving and the fourth one is stuck on the ground. It also cause the horse to brace with his belly muscles and the muscles of his inside hind leg.

There are four simple measures you can try to correct this mistake:

  • Ride forward with the inside leg
  • Stirrup stepping into the outside hind leg
  • Weight the outside seat bone
  • Speed up the shoulders for a couple of strides


Probably the most conventional corrective measure is to make the turn a little larger by riding more forward with the inside leg. In other words, activate the inside hind leg with your inside calf, when the inside hind leg is supposed to lift off. You can make the radius of your turn larger so that the turn on the haunches becomes a so-called passade. That way the horse is unable to stop and pivot with his inside hind leg, since the hind legs also have to move on a circle around a center that lies behind the horse. Over time, you can decrease the radius of this turn again, but keep the inside hind leg active with your inside leg. 


Another possibility to activate the inside hind leg is to reduce the weight it has to carry. There are two ways in which you can accomplish this. On the one hand, you can use stirrup stepping: Apply a slight pressure to the outside stirrup when the outside hind leg is on the ground. This sends your body weight through the outside hind leg into the ground, which keeps the outside hind leg grounded a little longer, so that the inside hind leg has more time to lift and move. 

On the other hand, you can sit on your outside seat bone for a couple of strides - which is “wrong” according to traditional dogma - but it helps the horse if the inside hind leg feels a little overwhelmed by the weight. Once the horse has become stronger and more supple in his hind legs, you can go back to sitting on the inside seat bone. These corrective measures are of a very temporary nature. Sometimes it’s better to be pragmatic and do what helps the horse in the moment, even if it violates a “rule”, rather than sticking with the dogma and making the horse’s job harder than it needs to be. The horse’s needs should take precedence over dogma. 


My final suggestion is to speed up the shoulders in the turn for a couple of strides. This means you begin the turn on the haunches in the original tempo. Then you accelerate the turning motion of the shoulders for a couple of strides. This activates the hind legs indirectly, since hind legs and front legs are connected to each other. Then you become more passive and let the horse slow down a little. If you do full pirouettes or double pirouettes, you can alternate between speeding up and allowing the horse to slow down a little.


You can easily combine some or even all of these corrective measures with each other. For instance, you could step into the outside stirrup while you are driving with the inside calf. On top of that you can shift your weight onto your outside seat bone for a couple of strides.

If you have a horse that can do turns on the haunches and has this issue of getting stuck with the inside hind leg, I would love it if you tried these suggestions and let me know which one worked the best for your horse. 

If you have a horse that can do canter pirouettes, you can try these things as well. They can support the canter pirouette, too.


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