How To Ride Walk Pirouettes

Learn how to correctly train walk pirouettes and what judges are looking for during test riding.

Walk pirouettes are often a move that is neglected during training and also a move where marks can easily be lost and gained during a test. Performing a walk pirouette can actually be quite difficult because there are a lot of different elements that go into it.

Understanding what a good walk pirouette looks like is the first step. So let’s discuss what goes into the movement and what is a judge looking for during test riding.

walk pirouette

What is a walk pirouette?

According to article 413 of the FEI Guideline for Dressage Event 2022

The Pirouette (half-pirouette) is a turn of three hundred and sixty (360) degrees (hundred and eighty -180- degrees) executed on two (2) tracks, with a radius equal to the length of the Horse and the forehand moving around the haunches.

Walk pirouettes within a test are carried out at collected walk and the forefeet and the outside hind foot move around the inside hind foot. The inside hind leg describes a circle as small as possible.

The Horse, is slightly bent in the direction in which it is turning. It remains “on the bit” with light contact, turning smoothly around, and maintaining sequence and timing of footfalls of that pace. The poll remains the highest point during the entire movement.

During the walk pirouettes the Horse should maintain its activity and rhythm and never move backwards or sideways.

When the Horse exits the half-pirouette it returns to the initial track without crossing the hind legs.

Why train walk pirouettes?

For our horse to be able to do the above movements there are certain elements required in their training.

It’s important to understand Pirouettes are a part of our lateral training.

They sit along side shoulder -in, shoulder fore, half-pass, travers and renvers. They aren’t just a trick movement we do within a test environment and just practice the week prior.

These lateral movements all help us build suppleness and mobility within our horse. They improve symmetry and and natural quality of gaits as well as over all posture.

What is turn on the haunches?

Turn on the haunches is slightly different from a walk pirouette and still done from walk.

According to article 413 of the FEI Guideline for Dressage Event 2022

“For Horses that are still not able to show collected walk the “turn on the haunches” is an exercise to prepare the horse for collection.

The “turn on the haunches” is executed out of Medium walk prepared by half halts to shorten the steps a little and to improve the ability to bend the joints of the hindquarters. The Horse does not halt before or after the turn.

The “turn on the haunches” can be executed on a larger radius
(approx. ½m) than the pirouette in walk, but the demands of the training scale concerning rhythm, contact, activity and straightness are the same.

Common mistakes in walk pirouettes

Often there are common mistakes that happen with walk pirouettes and maybe you can recognise a few you have done yourself. I know I certainly can!

  • The biggest mistake often shown is too much bend to the outside and not enough balance created through the turns.
  • The horse is pivoting and not lifting it’s inside hind leg
  • The horse has lost it’s walk rhythm and either moving too slow or too fast
  • The horse is resisting contact and either dropping head, tilting or lifting up
  • The horse isn’t entering or leaving the movement on the same line
  • The horse crosses is hind legs through the movement

Training walk pirouettes at home

Within Vanessa Way’s series ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements’ she runs you through step by step how she trains walk piroeuttes with her horses.

See first hand what to expect, what commonly goes wrong, how to overcome obstacles and how to improve your marks during a dressage test.

Below is a video snippet from her program.

We hope you find this useful. Get access to the full video plus over 4 hours of Vanessa’s teaching with her online training program ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements.’

Want to learn more? Check out these articles.

How to do flying changes

Centre lines and halts

Learn how to improve your canter walk transitions

Check out all of Vanessa’s online programs here

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