Dressage Training - The Pirouette
A pirouette is a lateral movement where the horse turns around on its inside hind leg with the two forefeet and the other hind foot moving around it in the shape of a circle. The Pirouette can be performed in walk and canter and requires a high degree of collection from the horse. Pirouettes are described in terms of the degree or the amount of the turn that has been asked for.
Types Of Pirouette
A 360 degree turn is called a Full Pirouette, a 180 degree turn is called a Half Pirouette and a 90 degree turn is called a Quarter Pirouette. When a Pirouette is performed in walk it is sometimes referred to as a turn on the haunches.
Principles Of A Pirouette
The horse should be bent into the direction that the Pirouette is being performed with the hind foot that forms the base of the Pirouette moving up and down on the spot or just fractionally traveling forwards.
The horses outside hind will move around the inside hind in the shape of a small circle, while the two forelegs will perform a larger circle on the outer edge of the Pirouette.
The horse will need to be engaged behind and should stay in balance and rhythm throughout each of the steps with the horse remaining on the bit with the poll the highest point.
The horse should make around 6 to 8 steps for a Full canter Pirouette and around 3 to 5 for a Half canter Pirouette.
Aids For The Pirouette
- When your horse is fully warmed up and engaged behind, collect the walk up in preparation for the Pirouette.
- If you are riding the Pirouette to the right the horses off hind will be the base for the Pirouette.
- Use an open inside right rein to ensure that the horse is clearly looking to the right.
- Use an indirect outside left rein to control the bend, impulsion and to control the direction that the horses forehand will be moving in.
- The inside right leg will remain on the girth to maintain impulsion and bend to the inside throughout the turn.
- The riders outside left leg will move behind the girth to ask the horses near hind to move around the off hind.
- The rider should position more of their weight on to their inside seat bone.
- To begin with ask for quarter turns in order to build up your horses confidence and strength. When you become more proficient you can move to half and eventually a full Pirouette.
- It is useful to have a trainer with you to ensure that the horses steps are balanced, active and correct right from the start.
Common Faults With Pirouette's
- Losing the bend to the inside can occur if the rider does not use sufficient inside leg or correct weight distribution on their inside seat bone.
Another reason the horse may lose bend to the inside is if the horse anticipates the new change of direction or has not remained sufficiently engaged and on the aids.
- Over turning in the Pirouette is often due to the rider not being sufficiently prepared to ask the horse to exit the Pirouette.
A good exercise is to practice riding a certain number of strides and then riding straight away afterwards, this helps to ensure that the horse remains attentive and on the aids and gives the rider the challenge of having to be very precise in the way the Pirouette is ridden.
- Quarters swinging out on the Pirouette can be due to their being too much inside bend or the horse not putting enough weight on the inside hind and swinging out to avoid having to engage the inside hind.
A good exercise to help is to put the horse into Shoulder In which will help to ensure that you have the correct amount of bend and engagement behind and then start the Pirouette, if you feel the hindquarters begin to swing out ride away regain control and engagement behind and start the exercise again.
- Not enough activity during the Pirouette can be due the Pirouette being too small for the horses level of training.
The rider will need to use more inside leg as they enter the Pirouette to ensure that their is sufficient activity and engagement behind. The Pirouette should be made larger to begin with to maintain the quality of the steps.