Manolo Mendez on Pirouette (Part III of III) Introducing the Canter Pirouette

Manolo Mendez on Pirouette (Part III of III) Introducing the Canter Pirouette

(© Manolo Mendez and Caroline Larrouilh. First published Baroque Horse Magazine, 2013. Image Courtesy Manolo Mendez Dressage.)

The canter pirouette is a high level movement, a very difficult exercise that requires balance, suspension, suppleness, listening and collection from the horse. To have a good canter pirouette, we must have a good…canter.

We must have a pure three-beat canter and be able to collect and lengthen the horse’s body without struggle. We must be able to go from gallop to medium to collected, to very collected canter and out again without the horse losing power, balance or willingness.

Defining the correct canter pirouette

In the canter pirouette, the horse has to bend through his entire body and spine in the direction of travel for six to eight strides. He has to turn on a small diameter circle and his inside hind leg has to act as a pivot, lifting and dropping in the same hoof print with every stride. His outside hind leg has to travel on a bigger diameter circle around the inside hind leg.

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Sylvia Loch on the Iberian Horse: Generous Beyond Belief

Sylvia Loch on the Iberian Horse: Generous Beyond Belief

(© Kip Mistral. First published in the Spring 2004 issue of Horse of Kings magazine, and in May 2008 in the Equine Journal. Photograph of Sylvia and her beloved Lusitano stallion Prazer, courtesy of Sylvia Loch.)

“The Lusitanos have taught me everything,” exclaims Sylvia Loch warmly, when asked what she has to say about the Iberian horse. Being an internationally-recognized classical rider, trainer, and judge and internationally published author of numerous books and videos on classical riding, she is considered an authority in matters of the Iberian horse and particularly of the Lusitano from Portugal. And the glow in her voice emanates not just from her knowledge but from the depth of her love for these fine horses that she just cannot live without…

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Manolo Mendez on Pirouette (Part II of III): Introducing the Walk Pirouette

Manolo Mendez on Pirouette (Part II of III): Introducing the Walk Pirouette

(© Manolo Mendez and Caroline Larrouilh. First published Baroque Horse Magazine, July 31, 2013. Image Courtesy Manolo Mendez Dressage.)

How I Introduce the Walk Pirouette

To introduce the walk pirouette, several methods can be used.

Turn on the haunches: Some riders ask for a turn on the haunches and then make the turn smaller and smaller. Sometimes the term turn on the haunches is used to describe a pirouette. This is not quite correct. A turn on the haunches is different from a pirouette in two ways; it is asked for in a slowed medium walk instead of a collected walk, and the hind legs travel on a wider circle then what is required in a pirouette which requires the inside hind leg lifts and drops in the same footprint.

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Manolo Mendez on Pirouette (Part I of III): Principles of Training the Walk Pirouette

Manolo Mendez on Pirouette (Part I of III): Principles of Training the Walk Pirouette

(© Manolo Mendez and Caroline Larrouilh. First published Baroque Horse Magazine, July 31, 2013. Image Courtesy Manolo Mendez Dressage.)

A correctly executed pirouette is a thing of beauty, a perfect storm of collection, impulsion, suppleness, strength and balance. At canter, it is one of the most physically demanding movements we can ask of our horse. It is a test of a trainer’s ability to develop self-carriage and a horse that is completely attentive and responsive to the aids…a horse filled with power and expression, yet focused and tension-free.

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