How to Teach your Horse the Spin
Question: I'm trying to figure out how to teach my horse to spin, what is the easiest way to get them started? I've been having trouble with them wanting to suck back and hop with their front end and not staying on their inside pivot foot.
Answer: I'm sure that everyone has seen a reining horse spinning like a top and thought "How did they teach them to do that?" To be truthful the spin is really simple and easy to teach if you follow a few simple steps. The spin is just a basic cross over step done multiple times. The first thing that we need to think is that the spin is a maneuver that has to be done with forward impulsion. The thought I have is that we are going to work on controlling the shoulders; I tend to not worry about the position of the hips or pivot foot, as it will tend to take care of itself as the horse learns to cross over and move their shoulders. I personally don't think a horse has to keep his inside pivot foot planted in one spot without picking it up. If a horse is driving forward and moving their shoulders correctly, I think that sometimes they need to reposition their foot. I by no means want a horse to be swapping ends and doing a belly spin.
The key to teaching your horse to cross their outside leg over their inside leg is to keep the forward motion. Watch the outside shoulder leg and every time it steps under your outside leg say "Step". As the horse's outside leg is under your outside leg it is in the perfect position to influence the next step, which will be a forward cross over step, with the horse's outside or right leg crossing over their inside left leg. By using this "Step" theory, we ask our horse to step over one step and then push them forward and back out onto a ten foot circle. We then just keep repeating the sequence of steps until our horse is willingly crossing over one step and then walking them out.
Now we ask for two cross over steps and again push our horse out onto a ten foot circle. Keep repeating the sequence so that we will have our horse willingly spinning. The aids and positioning for the spin are the same as the aids we use while circling (see sidebar). Our outside leg is back by the rear cinch helping to drive the horse forward and holding their hips to the inside of the circle. Our inside leg is at the front girth holding the shape of our small circle. As you release your inside leg, it allows your horse to step over into the spin, rather than staying on the circle. Our outside rein is pressed against the horse's neck, NOT PULLED ACROSS THE CENTER LINE. Pulling the outside rein across the center of the horse's neck will cause them to tip their nose to the outside of the spin and drop their shoulder to the inside. Our inside rein will be slightly lifted to help position the horses nose to the inside of the spin. Remember this sequence will take some time and will not happen overnight or in a couple of days, be patient and focus on making small steps everyday, your horse will thank you.
SideBar: While we are walking our horse on a ten foot circle to the left, we need to have the horse's body following the shape of the circle, our outside leg is driving our horse forward while your inside leg is maintaining the position of our horses ribs by keeping the arc of the circle and not letting them drop their shoulder into the circle. As we continue to drive our horse forward we turn our upper body slightly toward the inside of the circle as if we have eyes on our chest, this will naturally help to put our bodies in the correct position.
As always; Ride Hard, Be Safe and Have Fun - Steve Kutie