Troubleshooting Common Mistakes
1. Spinning. Your horse, at some point, will start to spin, but you have taught your horse to go out from inside rein. If he starts to turn too fast in the pirouette left, stop and leg yield right keeping the left bend. If you teach your horse that you can stop him with the inside rein, then you can soon control the pirouette with that inside rein, and you can do as many strides as you want—two, four, six or eight strides.
2. Hind legs together. When your horse tries to collect too much in the pirouette, he jumps with his hind legs together, without separating them.
He needs to learn to jump forward with the inside hind leg. Ride travers on the large circle or half pass. Push your horse over until you feel that he separates his hind legs in the canter. Then walk. Try to make it smaller again. If he collects too much again, make the circle larger again and travers. Then as soon as the hind legs separate, walk. Make it clear to the horse what you want. Don’t continue until he makes a mistake. If you stop when the horse makes a mistake, then you are actually rewarding him for making the mistake even though you don’t mean to. The horse doesn’t see it that way. He sees that stopping work is a reward.
3. Uneven balance. If your horse is very good to one side but he loses the canter rhythm to the other side, it’s always because he has one hind leg that supports his weight more easily than the other hind leg. You can help the horse find the balance in pirouette on the weaker hind leg. In travers, you put the pressure on the outside hind leg, and in shoulder-in you put the pressure on the inside hind leg. If your horse’s canter is good to the left but the right is not good, then when you go right, you should start it from shoulder-in instead of travers. I get the hind leg a little bit out so there’s more pressure on the right hind leg when I do the pirouette right. Then you can do pirouette left from travers so the right hind leg again takes the pressure. In this way, you do pirouette with the pressure on whichever hind leg you want. Sometimes it only takes a few weeks before the horse is comfortable taking the weight on either hind leg, and you can do the pirouette equally to both sides. You can do the pirouette so there is more pressure on one leg or the other or the same on both. You can level it out in a way that makes it easier for the horse to turn.
4. Stuck. In the test, sooner or later, it happens that there is a mistake that makes the horse stop. This can happen in pirouette or in piaffe. I always teach my horses that they are able to start again. I don’t want the horse to think, Now I’m stuck and I can’t start again. When that happens, the rider usually ends up using too much leg. Teach your horse that he can start easily from just a cluck. Stop him sometimes and then just start again. When you can do this, you can relax and the pirouettes get even better. It’s the same in piaffe.