This is a useful exercise I’ve been using a lot recently with much success.
Trot along the three quarter line and in the second half make a transition to halt. This could be a direct or a progressive one, depending on your horse’s level of training, but the halt needs to be balanced. From halt, ride a turn on the forehand towards the track and proceed immediately into trot. Repeat on the next three quarter line, which will be a turn on the forehand in the opposite direction.
This has several benefits, as well as being an unusual change of rein. The turn on the forehand engaged the inside hindleg, which has benefits for the trot on the new rein.
Turning on the forehand improves the suppleness of the hindquarters of the horse, which means that they push up into trot more correctly.
With horses who tend to rush leg yield and other lateral work, turn on the forehand focuses on the sideways movement only. Which can lead to improved lateral work later on as they understand that they can move away from the leg in a sideways fashion, not just forwards.
Working on the three quarter line reduces their reliance on the fence line, so is a good test of straightness in the trot and through the transitions.
Turn on the forehand is useful for horses who get a bit tight and tense through their neck and shoulders, and is useful for introducing the concept of the rider positioning the neck and shoulders, which is required for shoulder in.
I’ve found this exercise to be really helpful in creating a straighter, more active and balanced trot. One client has a horse who rushes in leg yield and struggles with straightness anyway, so we used this exercise to encourage the mare to think sideways more than forwards, and it had the added benefit of the mare pushing into a more active trot, and as she then came “through” her body and connected the front end to the back end, she began to straighten herself out which combined with the other exercises really improved their trot work.
Due to the improved trot after the turn on the forehand, putting in a canter transition at the next corner can be really useful in improving the canter strike off, and usually results in a more balanced canter immediately. This is where I have found the benefit to be for Phoenix.
There is a similar exercise on a square, where you ride a quarter turn on the forehand at each corner, but the corners can come up very quickly and both horse and rider can get in a pickle. I think I prefer my exercise as it gives you more time to prepare for the next turn. As well as the fact that a half turn on the forehand is more challenging than a quarter turn!