Turn Lane

Improve your horsemanship-pattern cornering technique with this simple turn-lane exercise from top trainer Robin Frid.


Event appeal: Horsemanship, equitation.

Goal: To learn to ride your pattern corners such that your horse remains in straight-body alignment-upright and balances-throughout the turn, rather than leaning into or bulging out of it.  You’ll do so by using a “turn lane” consisting of ground poles.

Benefit: When your horse remains straight between your reins and legs through a corner, he’ll be perfectly positioned to perform whatever maneuver comes next.  That’s key, because maneuvers tend to come up quickly on patterns, leaving little or no time to correct body-alignment problems.  Bonus: You’ll improve your timing on turns by learning to wait until your horse’s hips are even with the cone before initiating them, so he can stay straight.  By learning to wait for the correct point before starting your turn, you maintain balance – and control.


Most horsemanship patterns consist of a predictable set of maneuvers; spins, backing up, sidepassing, lead changes, and navigating a square or triangle.  While guiding your horse around the corners of a square or triangle may not have the pizzazz of a spin or lead change, the ability to do so correctly, with your horse upright and balanced through the turn, is critical if you’re riding to win.  That’s because any error on a corner, such as drifting outward or your horse leaning in, will likely haunt you through the next maneuver – and the next.


I’ll give you an exercise you can use to improve your cornering technique on either squares or triangles.  it’ll teach you to keep your horse’s body straight throughout each turn by using a “turn lane” consisting of ground poles.  With repetition, you’ll learn the proper timing for initiating the turn around each cone or amrker – and develop a feel for when your horse is in proper alignment beneath you.  I’ll demonstrate it using a triangle (see diagram), as it has a longer corner than does a square, providing a greater opportunity for problems to arise.  Practice the exercise and watch your pattern skills improve.


Horse & Rider
Written by Robin Frid with Sue M. Copeland

Photographed by Kevin McGowan